There was a significant spike in the total of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK on Sunday – less than 10 days before the scheduled start of the Cheltenham Festival.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, reported that the number of positive tests for the virus has risen to 35 after 12 new patients were identified in England.
Whitty said three patients were close contacts of a known Covid-19 case that was transmitted within the UK – believed to be a Surrey resident – while another new patient, from Essex, has no relevant international travel to an affected area.
Of the eight remaining cases, six had recently travelled from Italy – while two had been in Iran. These patients are from London, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire – where the Cheltenham Festival is due to begin on March 10.
As of 9am on Sunday, more than 11,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in the UK.
The British Horseracing Authority confirmed the latest position of an industry steering group, set up for racing during the outbreak, in a statement on Friday – stressing there remained “no need to develop a policy” in relation to the abandonment of any specific fixtures.
The statement read: “The industry group continues to liaise closely with government and plan for a range of contingencies.
“We would encourage everyone in racing to focus on the government’s advice on personal health and their advice to employers and businesses. These are the actions that in the view of public health experts are the most important at this stage.
“Speculation about potential actions from government or racing, whilst wholly understandable in the circumstances, may simply distract from the advice on which the population is being asked to focus.
“At present racing continues as usual and the sport remains in agreement that there is no need to develop a policy regarding abandonment of any specific fixtures due to coronavirus at this time.
“We will continue to speak to government and should a situation arise where this is required then the sport has established mechanisms in place for handling such scenarios.”
Three meetings in France this week are to take place behind closed doors in a response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Some major sporting events have already been affected – with Ireland’s Six Nations match against Italy called off and the Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in April, also cancelled.