It is less than 48 hours until Cheltenham Festival 2020 gets underway and despite the potential threat of COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, it has been given the go ahead.
There are now over 200 confirmed cases of the virus in the UK and two others have died.
However, officials are keen to spread the message of ‘business as usual’ for the biggest event in the jump race calendar.
ParkLife spoke to a number of people who are heading to the four day event and whether the potential threat of coronavirus is a worry for them.
“It doesn’t worry me at all. There is just as much chance of catching it anywhere else really.
“It’s the biggest week of the year for racing fans – I don’t think there is anything that would stop those people heading to the racecourse, provided the meeting goes ahead!” said Nicholas O’Leary from Cheltenham.
In several polls posted to Twitter, people were divided about whether the festival should be cancelled as a result of the virus.
However, almost three-quarters of people asked said they hadn’t changed their mind about going to the races just because of the public health emergency.
David Bytheway from Wolverhampton said “I feel if Cheltenham is cancelled then all other UK sporting events for the foreseeable future need to be cancelled too but I’m not overly concerned about attending the festival.
“The weather is a bigger threat as it’s been cancelled because of high winds before. I worry that if they cancel a meeting because of foot and mouth then they can cancel for coronavirus, but then every sport and event surely must follow suit. Which I doubt will happen as the Premier League won’t allow that because it would lose so much money.”
No UK sporting events have yet been cancelled but Italy’s government have already made the decision to play all major sporting events without the attendance of fans for one month in an attempt to curb the outbreak whilst Italy’s Six Nations match against England has been postponed.
Mandy Taylor from Redditch who is going to the first day of the race event said “You can’t avoid anything, if you get it you get it. You can only do your best to try and avoid. Scare mongering and cancelling big events will just make the situation worse.”
The racecourse has ensured there will be an increased number of wash basins and toilet facilities on site and hand sanitiser will be readily available. They have also advised anyone with severe flu like symptoms to not travel to the festival.
“It’s all hysteria, the media has blow it out of proportion. We’ve had worse things come around in the past and no one has cared that much about it. It’s not going to stop me going to the races since I’ve been looking forward to it for so long” said Andy Pitt from Exeter.
However, when a question about whether you think the Racecourse are doing enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus at the festival it was recieved negatively. The Twitter poll was again divided with the opinion almost split down the middle. 54% of people thought the racecourse was not taking sufficient action, whilst 46% did. But only time will tell whether the virus will spread during the festival and if the precautionary measures have been effective as the town prepares for over 60,000 visitors to the Racecourse everyday this week.
If you are worried about the coronavirus or want more information about how it’s spread, watch the informative video below by the World Health Organisation.