Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s Champions League match led to more coronavirus deaths and suffering, a scientist leading the UK’s biggest Covid-tracking project.
Professor Tim Spector said the March sporting events ’caused increased suffering and death’.
Data gathered from millions of volunteers found coronavirus ‘hotspots’ shortly after the events, BBC reports.
Thousands of people attended the festival in Gloucestershire, pictured above on March 13
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Andrew Parker Bowles at the Festival on March 11
Racegoers celebrated and hug each other after a race on March 13 at the Cheltenham Festival
Professor Spector says the case rates ‘increased several-fold’ locally and Number 10 said many factors could be behind the rise.
Sporting events on the continent had in some cases been called off or been held without spectators.
But the UK was continuing to hold mass gatherings, with Boris Johnson saying at the time that people should ‘as far as possible, go about business as usual’.
Both England and Scotland had a full programme of football in the first week of March.
Five horse racing meetings and the Six Nations rugby match at Twickenham between England and Wales – which the prime minister attended – had also taken place.
Twenty-four hours before Cheltenham opened up to 250,000 spectators, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘There’s no reason for people not to attend such events or to cancel them at this stage.’
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust has recorded 125 deaths from the coronavirus so far, more than double those in nearby Swindon with 67, Bristol on 58 and Bath on 46
Prof Spector, who works at King’s College London, said ‘people will have probably died prematurely’ because of the decision.
Journalist Melanie Finn remembers how people ignored basic safety rules at Cheltenham, saying: ‘It was like the last days of the Roman Empire, and I think there was a little bit of a sense that if it was open, by God they were going to party.’
Liverpool supporter Joel Rookwood has been ill for eight weeks and thinks he caught it at the match against Atletico Madrid.
‘The celebrations were some of the most physical that I’ve experienced,’ he said. ‘People were jumping all over each other.
Jurgen Klopp’s side hosted their Spanish rivals at Anfield on March 11 in front of 52,000 fans. There were 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans in attendance.
There has been new research into Liverpool’s Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid
It was the last major football match to take place in England before games were suspended
The match was the last major game played in England before lockdown restrictions were enacted and the league was temporarily suspended due to the scale of the coronavirus pandemic.
A report in the Sunday Times explains how Edge Health, a group that analyse NHS data through data-modelling, believe the game at Anfield led to 41 additional deaths between 25 to 35 days later.
Imperial College London and University of Oxford have estimated Spain had around 640,000 positive coronavirus cases at that time that the match went ahead.
There were 100,000 in Britain at that stage, the report continues. At the time the match went ahead, many businesses, schools, restaurants and some matches had already moved to behind-closed-doors in Spain.
Last month, Mayor of Madrid Jose Luis Martinez-Almedia admitted that it was a ‘mistake’ that the game was allowed to go on.
‘It didn’t make any sense that 3,000 Atletico fans could travel to Anfield at that time,’ Martinez-Almedia told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.
There were 3,000 fans from Spain at the match, with the country already under lockdown
Diego Simeone and Jurgen Klopp touched arms after a ban had been placed on hand shakes