UK defends allowing major sports events just before lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain, March 17, 2020. Matt Dunham/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – The UK government was following scientific advice by allowing major sporting events such as the Liverpool-Atletico Madrid soccer match and Cheltenham horse racing festival to go ahead days before the coronavirus lockdown, a senior minister said.

“At every stage in this crisis we have been guided by the scientific advice and have been making the right decisions at the right time,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday during the government’s daily news conference.

“There is often a wrong time to put certain measures in place, thinking about sustainability and everything else. At all parts of this we have been guided by that science, we have been guided by making the right decisions at the right time, and I stand by that.”

The government’s deputy chief scientific adviser Angela McLean said the suggestion, made by a reporter, that allowing the soccer game to go ahead in the north-west English city of Liverpool on March 11 contributed to the spread of the coronavirus was “certainly an interesting hypothesis”.

“It will 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,” she said.

Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by Estelle Shirbon

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