During an interview with the BBC’s Justin Webb on the Today Programme, Mr Hunt discussed the concern surrounding “large groups of people gathering at sporting events” amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Mr Webb pointed out that the friendly football match between England and Italy is a major concern as “a lot of people will come from Italy” to support their team. Italy has by far the highest amount of cases of coronavirus within Europe and currently has the third-highest amount of cases across the world.
Mr Webb asked: “There is an Italy vs England friendly planned at the end of the month would you advise that it goes ahead?”
Mr Hunt replied: “I think you have to listen to what people like Sir Patrick Vallance and Doctor Chris Whitty are saying.
“There is no doubt when we get to that final phase that mass public gatherings will stop for a short period of time.”
Mr Webb said: “The football match is a mass public gathering where a lot of people will come from Italy.”
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England are scheduled to play Italy at Wembley on March 27
Jeremy Hunt is a former Health Secretary
Mr Hunt responded: “Yes indeed and that may be why it ends up being cancelled but I think the priority is going to be to stop older people being exposed to the virus.”
Mr Webb said: “On the other hand you think of sporting events and they obviously do great things for people’s morale but you think of Premier League football and the very early design the Irish took to stop their match that would have brought a lot of Italian fans to Dublin.
“Do you think we are approaching the moment where the government will say we don’t want these large groups of people gathering at sporting events.”
Mr Hunt replied: “I think we are approaching that moment.
Mr Hunt said the priority is going to be to stop older people being exposed to the virus
“The exact time you make that call is very difficult.”
Yesterday Mr Hunt issued a bleak warning for the UK ahead of the expected coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Hunt told Sky News: “No health system anywhere in the world can cope with a pandemic in a way that means it is completely business as usual.
“Professor Whitty was very open about the fact there may be some impact even on urgent treatment.
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“We asked him what it would mean for cancer patients but what he said was that the impact at it’s high would be for about three weeks.
“So if you get the timing of that three weeks right, if you are able to accurately predict when it starts and when it ends, then you can do an enormous amount to make sure urgent treatment is protected.
“Because either it happens before that or it happens after that.
“But yes there are going to be impacts particularly for people that have pneumonia and respiratory disease when the pressures will be at their highest.”