Links between coronavirus-related deaths on Merseyside and Liverpool’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid last month have been labelled ‘an interesting hypothesis’ by a leading scientific adviser.
Liverpool faced the Spanish side in the last-16 of the Champions League last month with the game going ahead as normal, despite partial lockdown measures having already been put in place amid the Covid-19 crisis.
More than 52,000 fans attended the fixture at Anfield, including 3000 travelling fans from Madrid – the Spanish capital currently one of the worst affected cities in Europe.
Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, the major of Madrid, has since called the decision to allow Atletico fans to travel to Liverpool as a ‘mistake’, and government health experts have now responded as to whether the fixture has seen an accelerated spread of coronavirus cases in Liverpool and the surrounding areas.
Questioned on a potential link, professor Angela McClean – the government’s deputy chief scientific adviser – has labelled the situation as ‘an interesting hypothesis’ which may become clearer amid increased research.
“I’m genuinely sad to see that so many people in Liverpool are unwell and so many have died,” Professor McLean said at Monday’s Daily Government briefing.
“The question needs to be put into the context of what was the general policy of the time.
“If we were at the bit of history where we were living our lives as normal, in that circumstance, going to a football match is not a particularly large extra risk.
“However, once we get to the situation of our strange lives as we live them now, when we spend all our time at home, of course you wouldn’t add on an extra risk of lots and lots of people all going off to the same place at the same time.
“I think it will be very interesting to see once all the science is done what relationship there is between the viruses that have circulated in Liverpool and in Spain – that is certainly an interesting hypothesis you raise.”
Atletico Madrid ran out 3-2 winners after extra time, booking their place in the last eight of the Champions League 4-2 on aggregate, though the competition has now been suspended amid the pandemic.