Bring back club cricket: Ball as 'vector for disease' dismissed by expert who says UV rays help kill virus traces

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The ECB has submitted detailed plans for how cricket can be made as Covid safe as possible - GETTY IMAGES
The ECB has submitted detailed plans for how cricket can be made as Covid safe as possible - GETTY IMAGES

Playing cricket in sunny weather is as low risk as team sport gets while the Covid-19 crisis eases, according to a leading clinical epidemiologist, in support of the Daily Telegraph's campaign to save the club game.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of Oxford University's centre for evidence-based medicine, says there is no science to support Boris Johnson's current resistance to easing restrictions on the sport.

"I would put cricket at the lower end of low risk sports," Prof Heneghan says. "You are more at risk when sharing the cucumber sandwiches and the cup of tea rather than playing the game itself."

The respected scientist, a critic of the Government's over-reliance on "crystal ball gazing" virus modelling during the pandemic, says summer sports are less dangerous because of increased UV light.

The Government recognised more than a month ago that being outdoors in sunshine will help prevent people from contracting the virus. Giving evidence at the science and technology select committee, Professor Alan Penn, the chief scientific adviser at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: "The science suggests that being outside in sunlight, with good ventilation, are both highly protective against transmission of the virus."

However, Mr Johnson last week quashed hopes that club cricket could resume from July 4, describing the ball as a “vector for the disease”.

Last night Prof Heneghan questioned the science behind that theory as he suggested the sunshine would severely reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted. "UV light is used as a sterilisation," he said. "UV light on Covid disrupts the cell membrane and helps kill the virus."

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The England & Wales Cricket Board has submitted detailed plans for how cricket can be made as Covid safe as possible and is hopeful the Government will give permission for a resumption by the end of the week. If that happens, club cricket could restart as soon as the weekend starting July 11.

"The main thing to reduce the risk is to get people changed while they're outside," Prof Heneghan says, adding that cricket has "nowhere near" the risk levels of football or rugby.

"What needs to happen here is a consistency of approach because otherwise it's going to be a problem. We can't say we're having tennis but we're not having other sports. We're having horse racing but we won't have cricket. I think the sooner the better we get it on because in the summer we are seeing this is a disease that's changed."

Prof Heneghan has been closely monitoring hospital admission throughout the crisis. "Nowhere is overwhelmed at all in terms of a health system at the moment," he added.

"It's completely sensible that we have a return to normality with cricket. There are different ethnicities who love this game and to some this sport is a very important part of normality that we need to speed up in effect."

With the Government desperate to reopen the economy, pubs and restaurants have received priority over team sports as the nation returns to a new normal.

Since then, The Telegraph has launched a campaign that has been backed by Ben Stokes and other leading cricketing figures, politicians from both Conservative and Labour as well as a string of former sports ministers and scientists.