The Cheltenham Festival was given the green light to go ahead by the government despite the coronavirus spreading across the UK.
There are calls for an investigation into whether the 4-day event should have been cancelled due to concerns that it rapidly increased the spread of the virus.
One of those publicly calling for the investigation is Professor Gabriel Scally who is the former director of Public Health in the South West. “Really from a health point of view [it] should have been stopped in advance,” he said.
The Festival ended 10 days before lockdown was introduced and the organisers have faced widespread criticism for not cancelling the event. It was one of the last events to go ahead before the government put restrictions on mass gatherings.
Government data shows that Gloucestershire has recorded 125 deaths which is more than double nearby locations such as Bristol where there have had 58 deaths and Bath which has had 46.
Callum Horne from London was one of thousands of people who attended all four days of the Festival and he said “I didn’t think going to the Festival would have an impact on me getting the coronavirus. It was a good week of racing, everyone had fun. There wasn’t really any talk about the coronavirus at all.”
Over 250,000 people attended the annual event but attendance was down by 14,000 people from last years record breaking attendance.
The Jockey Club introduced extra hygiene measures at the event which included hand sanitiser dispensers and additional wash basins.
Horne explains how he used the additional facilities “Every time we walked passed we would put a bit of gel on and at the end of the day all of the machines with the gel in were pretty much empty. I think a lot of people were more conscious compared to normal.”
If the Festival had been cancelled Horne thinks punters would have been frustrated but would have also understood the decision “everyone would have been a bit annoyed but I could have seen why. I think everyone would have been annoyed especially owners, trainers, jockeys because they all work for Cheltenham which is the biggest week in the calendar.”