General view of match balls on the pitch(Action Images via Reuters)
General view of match balls on the pitch(Action Images via Reuters)

UK experts say not OK to unlock, but Premier League to resume

Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a SAGE member, believes that the UK is taking a risk over the loosening of lockdown because of its current relatively high incidence of infections.
London | By Prasun Sonwalkar
UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2020 03:19 PM IST

Several experts on Sunday warned against easing lockdown restrictions since the numbers of deaths and cases in the UK are not low enough, but the Boris Johnson government is set to relax curbs from Monday, including resumption of Premier League.

“Football is coming back,” declared culture secretary Oliver Dowden, as latest figures on Saturday evening showed 38,376 dead (day rise of 215) and 272,826 cases (day rise of 2,445 cases). Some shops are to open from Monday, besides other relaxations.

The experts concerned over easing curbs include those on the influential Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), leading to a growing perception that the decision to relax is a political decision driven by eagerness to kick-start sections of the dwindling UK economy.

Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a SAGE member, believes that the UK is taking a risk over the loosening of lockdown because of its current relatively high incidence of infections.

“There is less room for mistakes. The precautionary principle suggests that if you are unsure about the risks, especially when the outcomes have a large impact, then you should err on the side of caution,” he said, reflecting similar views of SAGE members such as John Edmunds, Jeremy Farrar, Calum Semple and Peter Horby.

Devi Shridhar, a public health exert at Edinburgh University, said the current daily rate of thousands of new cases was unacceptably high: “Watching carefully what’s happening in east Asia and combining this with what we know so far about this virus, it does indeed feel like mistakes are being repeated.”

New official guidance on the lockdown permits return to domestic competition in football, cricket and other sports from June 1. The first major sporting event is expected to be 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse on June 6.

Dowden said: “Much of the media attention has focused on football, because it has a special place in our national life. Recognising its significance, I set two challenges for football’s return: first that a reasonable number of remaining Premier League games would be broadcast free-to-air, and second that the financial benefits of returning would be shared throughout the entire football family”.

“I’m glad to confirm that a third of the matches to finish the season will now be free to view, including the Liverpool v Everton derby. Live Premier League football will be on the BBC for the first time in its history”, he added.

The latest guidance outlines measures that need to be in place for an event to go ahead, and to keep everyone involved safe, including a screening process for coronavirus symptoms at the venue, a one-way system for people and vehicles, minimising the use of dressing rooms, maintaining social distancing wherever that is possible.

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