Major public events could be cancelled due to coronavirus spread, expert warns

Crowd of festival goers on site on day 3 of Glastonbury 2019, Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset. Picture date: Friday 28th June 2019.  Photo credit should read:  David Jensen/EmpicsEntertainment
A raft of major public events are coming up, with the chief medical officer for England suggesting authorities could look to cancel them amid the spread of coronavirus. (David Jensen/EmpicsEntertainment)
  • 19 cases of coronavirus have now been confirmed in the UK

  • The chief medical officer for England warned there could be a “social cost” to coronavirus

  • Switzerland has banned events of more than 1,000 people

  • Saudi Arabia has stopped foreign pilgrims arriving ahead of Ramadan

  • Glastonbury and Royal Ascot among major public events taking place in the next few months

Major events involving mass gatherings of people could be cancelled and schools may shut for months as coronavirus continues to spread, experts have warned.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, warned there could be a “social cost” arising from measures to contain the illness, as the 19th case in the UK was confirmed.

A Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy, originally scheduled for March 7, has been postponed and England’s game in Italy called off as the latter country’s authorities try to stifle the outbreak in the north.

“One of the things that’s really clear with this virus, much more so than flu, is that anything we do we’re going to have to do for quite a long period of time, probably more than two months,” prof Whitty said.

Jonathan Joseph of England runs with the ball during Guinness Six Nations between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium in London, England on February 23, 2020. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Espa-Images/CSM/Sipa USA)
Ireland's game against Italy was called off in the Six Nations tournament while Engalnd's tie hangs in the balance. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Espa-Images/CSM/Sipa USA)

He added that he was not saying mass cancellations definitely would happen, but said the effectiveness of doing so needed to be weighed up against the social impact.

Switzerland has banned events with more than 1,000 people and Saudi Arabia has stopped foreign pilgrims from visiting ahead of Ramadan.

The last two stages of the cycling UAE Tour were called off on Thursday after two race staff fell ill and five Italian Series A football games will be played behind closed doors.

Muslims pray and gather around the holy Kaaba at the Great Mosque during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Waleed Ali
Muslims pray and gather around the holy Kaaba at the Great Mosque during Ramadan last year. (REUTERS/Waleed Ali)

Grime star Stormzy rescheduled the Asia leg of his tour amid fears of the virus spreading and fashion designer Giorgio Armani recommended visitors to the Milan fashion show last week should stay away, live-streaming it instead.

MCM Comic Con London organisers are monitoring the outbreak ahead of its large convention in May.

Other major social events coming up in the next few months include Royal Ascot, which attracts 300,000 people in mid-June, and Glastonbury, which has sold 135,000 tickets. There is no suggestion they will be called off.

Euro 2020 is also due to attract huge crowds throughout Europe in June and July.