Large events like Cheltenham Festival are unlikely to happen for a 'few years', says expert

Crowds in the grandstand during day four of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Large events like the Cheltenham Festival are unlikely to be allowed to happen for a few years, according to one expert. (Getty)

Major events like the Cheltenham Festival and large weddings are unlikely to be allowed to happen again for a “few years” in the ongoing fight to stop the spread of coronavirus, an expert has said.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, said restrictions on large gatherings are likely to be in place for some time and Britons needed to “get used to that”.

Speaking on Times Radio, Prof Spector said: “I can't see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again, I can't see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world, I think for the next few years those days are gone.

He added: "I think we need to get used to that and that will allow us to do the things we really want to do more easily and more readily."

Last year the government came under fire for allowing the four-day Cheltenham Festival to go ahead just a week before England’s first national lockdown, despite calls for it to be cancelled.

Watch: UK defends allowing major sports events just before lockdown

Prof Spector spoke out at the time, saying that the Cheltenham Festival and a Champions League match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid in Liverpool had prompted a surge in cases in those areas.

He said: “I think sporting events should have been shut down at least a week earlier because they'll have caused increased suffering and death that wouldn't otherwise have occurred.”

At the time the government said it had followed the advice available and Cheltenham said it was impossible to know how or where people had contracted COVID.

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What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

Under current restrictions, spectators are banned from attending sporting events and large weddings cannot take place, though police have had to deal with several cases of large weddings being held despite the rules being in place.

As the UK continues its mass vaccination programme, it is expected that there will be a loosening of the rules over the next few months.

Schools in England are expected to reopen from March 8 and it has been reported that people could begin socialising outdoors just weeks after, with pubs and restaurants potentially allowed to reopen in April, albeit with some restrictions.

Professor Spector said he believed reinstating the rule of six allowing people to meet outdoors should be “definitely encouraged” and suggested that beer gardens could potentially be more controlled environments than people’s own homes and gardens.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown