Great news! As things stand, Cheltenham Festival will go ahead as planned.
The government has confirmed that, for the time being at least, sporting events and mass gatherings of people will go ahead as planned, subject to change.
And as festival organisers have confirmed:
“All remains full speed ahead for The Festival in a fortnight’s time.
“Racing continues to liaise closely with government to stay on top of the situation and we are looking forward to four fantastic days of racing at Cheltenham.”
The Betfair Exchange market relating to whether the Festival goes ahead or not has also had its say, with more than £2 million matched and the ‘racing goes ahead’ selection the warm favourite now at 1.38 (4/11).
However, the same officials have now issued a series of warnings and health advice to racegoers who may be suffering with the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
Anyone who believes they have coronavirus, or has been in contact with a confirmed or suspected sufferer, is being told to stay at home. The same advice applies to anyone who has recently returned from travels to any of the high-risk countries in Europe or beyond.
A statement from Cheltenham reads:
“Do not travel to the Cheltenham Festival if: you have any of the following symptoms – a cough, a high temperature or shortness of breath, AND you have been to or transmitted through the high risk countries, or been in contact with anyone that has, in the last 14 days.
“To protect yourself and others please do not travel and call NHS 111 (GB) or HSE 112 (Republic of Ireland) for expert advice. These measures are being taken in order for us to safeguard everyone’s health and wellbeing during the current public health situation. Thank you for your understanding. For more details, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.”
The Festival’s organisers have already revealed a number of measures designed to combat the spread of the virus should any unknowing sufferers attend the racing. That includes the implementation of more toilet facilities and wash basins on site, with hand sanitisers readily available around the Prestbury Park venue.
Anyone unwilling to travel for fear of catching the virus can contact their ticket vendors for details on getting a refund.
Government Moves to ‘Delay’ Protocol
In the UK government’s plans to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, they outlined a four-stage system.
We have now entered the ‘delay’ phase, under which the protocol could include the banning of large-scale sporting events if that is deemed necessary.
It seems we are too close to the Cheltenham Festival for that to be affected, however the Grand National and other sporting events such as the tailend of the football season could be impacted.
The move has been confirmed by Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical advisor to the government, who has said:
“As time moves by, we then may start to move into the more socially determined actions…the kind of measures we can do to delay things which involve changes to society.”
So far, the UK has avoided major disruption but other European nations have witnessed changes to how their sporting events are held.
In Italy, one of the worst-affected countries in the Western world, has already announced that Serie A matches will be played behind closed doors until April 3 at the earliest, while Atalanta’s Champions League game with Valencia will also suffer the same fate.
The Six Nations game between England and Italy, scheduled for March 14 in Rome, has also been postponed, while in Asia a number of sporting events – including the Chinese Super League and Japanese J-League, and Asian Tour golf – have been suspended indefinitely under the problem is brought under control.