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Cancelling sports events over virus would be premature, says culture secretary

PUBLISHED: 09:30 09 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:05 09 March 2020

The Norwich fans before a Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich.  The culture secretary has said cancelling sports matches over coronavirus would be premature.  Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 15/02/2020

The Norwich fans before a Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich. The culture secretary has said cancelling sports matches over coronavirus would be premature. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 15/02/2020

Paul Chesterton

Cancelling sporting events and shutting museums and galleries in the UK amid the coronavirus outbreak would be “premature”, the Culture Secretary has said.

While some other European countries are cancelling mass gatherings or limiting the number of people who can attend big events, Oliver Dowden said there are "no plans" for Britain to follow suit.

Mr Dowden insisted the Government is following the advice of health officials and, while the situation is kept under review, there is currently "no need" to cancel big events or for people to avoid museums or other public places.

He told BBC Breakfast: "There's no reason for people either not to attend such events or to cancel them at this stage, but we keep it under review."

Norwich City's next home game, against Southampton, is due to take place on Saturday. It is understood the club is still waiting for guidance from national football authorities on how to hold matches.

READ MORE: Seven new coronavirus cases confirmed in east of England

At the weekend, Italy imposed restrictions attempting to lock down some 16 million people for nearly a month in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.

Sunday saw Italy's biggest daily increase in cases of the virus since its outbreak began last month, and the country's death toll has risen to more than 360.

France, where more than 1,100 cases have been recorded and 19 people have died, has announced a ban on events of more than 1,000 people.

READ MORE: What restrictions are supermarkets putting on goods amid coronavirus panic buying?

But Mr Dowden said the UK, which has had more than 270 people test positive for the virus and seen the third death of someone with the disease, has no current plans to take similar steps.

He said: "We work on the basis of the evidence, particularly from the chief medical officer, and there is no advice to suggest that we should be doing that. We are clear that we don't need to cut down the number of people attending events.

"We shouldn't be cancelling events at this stage, but I just say as a caution that we do keep these things under review and that may change in the future but we certainly have no plans at this stage to take any such steps."

He added that the Government is "very cognisant" of the potential economic and social impacts of cancelling events.

Asked about the possibility of galleries and museums closing, he said: "I think all of this is quite premature at this stage, we are not anywhere near that sort of stage.

"Any decision will be taken on the basis of the facts and the evidence. But we are very clear - at this stage we are still in the contain phase and that means that there is no need to cancel such events, there's no need for people not to go to sporting events, to museums and so on."


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