Coronavirus: Cheltenham Festival to go ahead in spite of coronavirus fears

Horse racing event is set to begin on Tuesday

Nick Robson
Monday 09 March 2020 19:39 GMT
Government officials met with sport and broadcast partners to discuss events
Government officials met with sport and broadcast partners to discuss events (Getty)

Officials at Cheltenham on Monday said it was “full steam ahead” for the start of the Festival on Tuesday.

While confirmed cases of coronavirus in Britain now total over 300, a meeting on Monday between sports governing bodies with broadcasters and government officials to discuss contingency planning concluded that based on the “current scientific advice” there were no reasons to cancel sporting events “as things stand”.

Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “Of course these things happen, but we do our bit for the public as a responsible business.

“We’ve been getting some positive signals from government over the last week or so, and that was all confirmed this morning at the meeting.

“It’s full steam ahead, with appropriate measures to reassure people – the likes of hand gels and notices to remember to wash your hands.”

A spokesperson for the department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which hosted the meeting, said: “Senior government officials chaired a constructive meeting of sports and broadcast partners, as part of sensible contingency planning in relation to Covid-19.

“This included a discussion of how staging sporting events behind closed doors could work in practice, should the situation change and become necessary. However, based upon the current scientific advice from the government’s medical experts, there is no rationale to close or cancel sporting events as things stand.

“We will remain in regular dialogue with sports governing bodies and broadcasters, ensuring they are in receipt of the most up to date guidance from the health authorities.”

It is understood no ministers or clinicians were in attendance at the meeting, where the British Horseracing Authority was represented by head of public affairs, Ross Hamilton.


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