The UK’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance has explained why Premier League and EFL matches have not been banned amid the spread of coronavirus.
The government announced on Thursday they were moving into the ‘delay’ phase of their plan to combat the outbreak but have not ordered for matches to be suspended, or for games to be played behind closed doors.
Elsewhere in Europe, similar action has already been taken for Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga, while both France’s Ligue 1 and Germany’s Bundesliga will be played behind closed doors.
However, Stoke City have been told to go ahead with their game on Saturday at Reading, who have been averaging about a home crowd just shy of 15,000 this season.
There is still a possibility that sports events could be banned or played behind closed doors in the coming weeks – but Vallance insists it is important not to act too soon.
He said: “Of course there is a risk. [If] one individual is infected, you are releasing the virus from your body as you cough, sneeze or put fluids onto surfaces.
“But on average, one person infects two or three others. You therefore have a very low probability of infecting a large number of people in a stadium. Or a rather higher probability of infecting people very close to you.
“That means that most of the transmission tends to take place with friends and colleagues, in close environments – not in the big environments. It is true of course, that any cancellation of things can have some effect.
“But if you then get a displacement activity, where you end up with everyone congregating somewhere else, you may actually have an increased risk. Particularly in an indoors environment.
“It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at some point make a decision for the resilience point that has been discussed.
“But this is not a major way to take this epidemic. The major ways to tackle it are to try and reduce and delay the transmission across households and across people who have become infected.
“That’s why that is the concentration of the first actions. And they are not trivial actions. These are quite difficult things for people to actually comply with and to do.”