Culture secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured) reassured the general public that it is unlikely that sporting events in Britain will be affected by coronavirus in the immediate future.
Today (9 March), sports governing bodies and broadcasters will meet with government officials in an emergency Cobra meeting held by prime minister Boris Johnson, to discuss events being staged behind closed doors if mass gatherings are banned due to the outbreak worsening.
Dowden told BBC Radio 5 Live: “At this stage we’re not in the territory of cancelling or postponing events.
“I was at Twickenham [for England v Wales] with the Prime Minister [on Saturday]. There was a huge crowd of people there. There is no reason why people should not be going to those events. It is very premature to be talking about things like that.”
He added: “That is why I asked the chief medical officer to brief the sporting bodies last week and that is why we will be driven by the advice of the chief medical officer as we continue.
“I do want to emphasise in relation to sporting events, any talk of cancellation is very premature indeed. At the moment there is no evidence to suggest we should be doing that, and we don’t have any plans to.”
However, Andy Holt, the owner of League One side Accrington, has expressed concerns about the current situation and urged the government to consider pausing the football season.
Holt told BBC Four’s Today show “I think we need to get on top of it”, and that there would be “long-term financial ramifications” for his club if fans contracted the disease from attending a match.
Holt added: “I would be considering pausing the season until we know exactly where this is going and get a grip on it.
“I am walking round our club at the weekend and there are 3,000 fans there – I am worried that inviting them altogether at our place is actually putting them in danger.”
As of today, three people have died, and 280 people have been diagnosed with the virus in the UK.
In Italy, for a month all major sporting eventsare to be played without fans in an attempt to slow the coronavirus outbreak, whilst the Italy v England Six Nations match in Rome has been postponed.
Fans will also not be allowed to attend the Bahrain Grand Prix in March because of the outbreak.
Depending on government advice, Premier League football matches may be played behind closed doors within the next couple of weeks.
Attendees to the emergency Cobra meeting held today will be discussing logistics and feasibility as well as contracts and rights considerations.
The Premier League and EFL have banned pre-match handshakes between both teams and officials until further notice to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The measure came after the government asked the Premier League ‘to step up its contingency planning’. Several clubs have also instructed players to not take selfies with fans or sign autographs to prevent them catching COVID-19.