BHA Step in Amid Cheltenham Festival Coronavirus Fears
The coronavirus (classified as Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation) which started in Wuhan, China has intensified widespread fears of a global pandemic as more countries report cases of the virus. The outbreak has swept across Europe, with Spain, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Croatia all having confirmed new cases in the past week. Last Wednesday, Brazil also gave account of their first affected victim, meaning the disease has now infected all inhabited continents across the globe.
A number of high-profile international sporting events have been postponed in light of the virus spreading, including the Six Nations game which was set to be held in Italy.
With Cheltenham Festival 2020 less than 14 days away, racegoers are showing increased concern over the virus’s potential threat to racing as the prestigious meeting attracts fans from all over the world. Fears of a UK outbreak has seen the creation of a special group for The Festival, who are putting contingency plans in place should the need arise.
The group, which is comprised of British Horseracing Authority (BHA) representatives amongst Racecourse Association members have held meetings with Cheltenham Racecourse and discussed the implications of the coronavirus impacting the four-day event. It is understood that the official briefing did not identify any known threat, or risk to the races at Cheltenham but that the situation be monitored closely.
Nick Rust, BHA Chief Executive stated, “We have an industry group in place that has been and continues to work on the potential impact of the coronavirus on the horse racing industry as a whole.
“In terms of potential ramifications for the Festival, any decision that impacts on it taking place will not be a decision that racing makes, but rather the Government.
“In the event that the Cheltenham Festival was postponed, either in its entirety or in part for any reason, there are contingencies already in place to re-stage it later in the season.”
The group, who will be following the government’s lead as to whether further actions need to be taken relayed a positive report to the Jockey Club earlier this week. Representatives deemed it unnecessary to postpone, abandon or cancel the National Hunt event which takes centre stage between the 10th – 13th March.
“It remains full speed ahead for the Festival in a fortnight’s time,” said a spokesperson from the Jockey Club.
The UK, which is ranked as one of the best countries in the world prepared for an epidemic only have 13 confirmed cases of the virus. Eight of these patients recovered and were discharged from the treatment centres, whilst the other four victims are being quarantined and treated in specialist disease control centres.
An NHS Official has also reported that if an outbreak occurs, immediate measures would be put in place to delay the spreading of the disease, with advanced monitoring already taking place across the UK.
So, racegoers should continue to look forward to four days of extraordinary racing action at Cheltenham Racecourse, the showpiece event in Jump racing.