Cheltenham festival organizers said Boris Johnson’s trip to the England vs Wales rugby match was one of the reasons they didn’t cancel the race meeting, we learned today hui.
The four-day event, which attracts 250,000 people, took place just two weeks before the March 23 lockdown, but there was a huge debate at the time about whether to abandon it after the close. other major sporting events.
But organizers of the Jockey Club insisted that the festival “take place under the direction of the government” and that other sports events also took place before and during the festival.
A letter to the Cheltenham Borough Council notes that the Prime Minister – who is currently battling the virus in intensive care – attended the England-Wales rugby match in Twickenham on Saturday 7 March, just three days before the start of the festival.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds in the stands during the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London. Photo PA. Date of the photo: Saturday March 7, 2020. See the history of the AP RUGBYU in England. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy / PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior permission
The letter, as seen by The Guardian, said: “As with the events of England against Wales which the Prime Minister attended at Twickenham on Saturday for 10 Premier League games across the country this weekend, the Government directions are for the country’s affairs to continue as usual, while ensuring that the latest public health advice is respected and promoted. “
He also cited medical advice from Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, who previously said: “There is actually very little impact on the spread of the virus during mass gatherings, especially if they are outdoors. “
At the time, there was a huge debate over whether it should be canceled, Piers Morgan of MailOnline saying he was “amazed” that it had happened, and former Secretary of Health Jeremy Hunt, claiming that the government had imposed the lock “too late”.
But while most of the other events were canceled by individual sports organizations, the festival always took place – prompting ministers to do more to ensure that all events were canceled when the outbreak was in its infancy. .
Andrew Parker Bowles (left) with Zara Tindall (center and The Princess Royal (right) on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival
Comedian Lee Mack is said to have contracted a coronavirus at the Cheltenham Festival. The 51-year-old star is pictured at a previous event in Gloucestershire on March 17, 2016
Since the festival took place, hundreds of people have complained of symptoms of the deadly virus.
Camilla’s ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles is among many suspected of catching the virus at the event on March 10-13, including comedian Lee Mack and West Bromwich Albion footballer Charlie Austin .
Royal family members remain concerned, with Brigadier Parker Bowles being in close contact for two days during the event with Camilla, Princess Anne, daughter Zara Tindall and son-in-law Mike Tindall.
Racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks also revealed fears that he had caught the virus there – as did two racetrack workers, Andrew Maclean and Scott Saunders.
Other celebrities reportedly in good health include singer Lily Allen, television presenter Nick Knowles, actor Ben Miller, cyclist Victoria Pendleton, tennis coach Judy Murray and cricketer Jonny Bairstow and the reality star Georgia Toffolo.
West Bromwich Albion footballer Charlie Austin (left, photographed with a fan on March 10 at the racetrack) believes he contracted a coronavirus in Cheltenham last month
A spokesman for Cheltenham Racecourse told the Guardian: “The festival started over four weeks ago and has only taken place under the clear and continuous direction of the government and its scientific experts, as d other popular sporting events at Twickenham and Murrayfield, 10 Premier League. matches and the UEFA Champions League at Anfield the same week.
“We promoted the latest public health advice and introduced a range of additional hygiene measures at the event, including hundreds of hand sanitizer dispensers and additional sinks.”
MailOnline also approached the racetrack for comment.
This graphic shows which members of the royal family met during the Cheltenham Festival, before holding other events afterwards