Hopes of next week’s Cheltenham Festival going ahead as scheduled received a boost on Tuesday as British Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed no current plans to cancel mass events, despite the ongoing threat of coronavirus.
The UK Government has set out a ‘battle plan’ in response to Covid-19, with a 27-page document released amid widespread concerns about the impact the virus will have on people’s well-being, the economy and public services.
Launching the plan at a Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had “no doubt at all” that the “country is going to get through coronavirus, and get through it in good shape”.
Hancock earlier responded positively when asked about the cancellation of mass gatherings such as next month’s London Marathon.
“It’s far too early to be able to tell in that instance,” he told told BBC Breakfast.
“What we can say for sure is that right now, we do not recommend the cancelling of mass events, and schools as well should not be closing unless there is both a positive case and the school has had the advice to close from Public Health England.
“So right now, as long as you wash your hands more often, that is the number one thing you can do to keep you and the country safe.”
Hancock described the threat of coronavirus to the UK as “increasingly serious” but stressed the Government and the health service are “well-prepared”.
In a Commons statement, he said: “The situation facing the country is increasingly serious.
“Globally and at home, the number of cases continues to rise.
“As of 9am today there were 51 confirmed cases in the UK, and it’s becoming more likely that we will see widespread transmission here in this country.”
The Cheltenham Festival is due to get under way next Tuesday, March 10.
The British Horseracing Authority has stated that the industry’s steering group will continue to liaise with the Government over the threat of coronavirus.
A statement on Monday read: “Government has reiterated its position that business should continue as usual at present across the country, and that focus should continue to be placed on following its advice regarding controlling the spread of the disease.
“The industry’s steering group is coordinating the sharing of this Government advice with the sport’s participants.
“The steering group remains in regular and ongoing contact with Government and continues to consider a wide range of scenarios in order that we are able to act quickly in case the situation should change.”
Three race meetings in France this week are taking place behind closed doors in a response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Betfair’s market on Cheltenham going ahead had ‘yes’ as a 1-5 chance on Tuesday afternoon, with ‘no’ priced at 9-2.