Scientist says theory Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid helped spread coronavirus is ‘interesting hypothesis’

Deputy chief scientific advisor Angela McLean was quizzed on the potential impact the Champions League last-16 tie has had

Ben Burrows,Melissa Reddy
Monday 20 April 2020 18:20 BST
Coronavirus: How has sport been affected?

One of the country’s leading scientists has labelled suggestions playing Liverpool’s Champions League game with Atletico Madrid with supporters could have helped spread coronavirus further in the UK an “interesting hypothesis”.

The last-16 fixture, held at Anfield on March 11, was the last to be played in England with fans before Europe’s elite football competition was suspended indefinitely.

Diego Simeone’s side defeated Liverpool 3-2 to secure their progress to the quarter-finals in front of 3000 Atleti supporters who were allowed to travel to Madrid.

Matches in the top two divisions back in Spain were already being played behind closed doors at that point in time while nurseries, schools and universities were shut.

The country had reported 1,646 cases of the virus, with 782 stemming from the capital. All public events involving more than 1,000 people had been banned.

The decision to stage the game at all has come under increasing scrutiny with cases and deaths in Liverpool spiking in recent weeks.

When asked whether the match helped to spread the virus further deputy chief scientific advisor Angela McLean refused to deny the possibility.

“I think it’ll be very interesting to see in the future, when all the science is done, what relationship there is between the viruses that have circulated in Liverpool and the viruses that have circulated in Spain.

“That’s certainly an interesting hypothesis you raise there.”

Speaking at the same daily briefing chancellor Rishi Sunak maintained that the government has made “the right decisions at the right time” throughout the crisis.

The comments come after the mayor of Madrid called the decision to stage the game “a mistake”.

“It didn’t make any sense that 3,000 Atletico fans could travel to Anfield at that time,” Jose Luis Martinez-Almedia told Spanish radio station Onda Ceroover the weekend.

“It was a mistake. Looking back with hindsight, of course, but I think even at that time there should have been more caution.

“From the day before the game the regional government and Madrid council had already adopted important measures on reducing large gatherings of people.”

Earlier this month, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted it was difficult to prepare for the game in the context of Covid-19 and the state of play in Spain.

“On the Monday morning, I woke up and heard about the situation in Madrid, that they would close the schools and universities from Wednesday, so it was really strange to prepare for that game, to be honest,” he told the club’s official website.

“I usually don’t struggle with things around me. I can build barriers right and left when I prepare for a game, but in that moment it was really difficult.”

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