'Serious questions' on why Cheltenham Festival was allowed to go ahead as star names display coronavirus

“Serious questions” need to be asked on why the Cheltenham Festival was allowed to go ahead during the coronavirus crisis after a number of famed names told of COVID-19 symptoms.

By Darren Burke
Monday, 6th April 2020, 6:59 am
Updated Monday, 6th April 2020, 7:00 am

More than 250,000 racegoers attended the four day racing festival last month – and there are claims that the event helped spread coronavirus across the UK.

Now the shadow sports minister Catherine West has questioned why the meeting was allowed to take place after hearing a number of racegoers have contracted COVID-19.

A number of high-profile attendees have reported symptoms - including West Brom footballer Charlie Austin, comedian Lee Mack and Gold Cup-winning jockey Andrew Thornton.

Comedian Lee Mack was among those who displayed COVID-19 symptoms after attending the Cheltenham Festvial. (Photo: Getty).

A huge 68,500 crowd watched the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 13 March – just before the Government banned mass gatherings.

Catherine West told BBC Sport it was "worrying to hear several Cheltenham racegoers have contracted Covid-19".

She said: "Serious questions need to be asked about whether it was appropriate to have a mass gathering of tens of thousands of people while the rest of Europe were enacting social distancing and banning mass gatherings.”

Cheltenham organisers introduced special hygiene measures for the four-day meeting, including extra hand-washing stations, and say they had followed clear guidance from the government and science experts.

Dr Sue Smith, senior racecourse medical officer for the Festival, said the hygiene standards were "of the highest level and all measures were taken in accordance with daily updates from Public Health England".

She added: "It's simply not possible to know how and where someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 has contracted it."