A senior minister has insisted that the government is still being led by science despite concerns that lockdown measures are being lifted too quickly.
A number of expert government advisers have expressed concern about plans to ease lockdown restrictions in England from Monday.
Professor Peter Horby, of the University of Oxford, joined scientists Sir Jeremy Farrar and Professor John Edmunds, all members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), to warn that ministers are taking risks.
But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden – who today announced the further easing of measures in relation to elite sports – insisted that the government continues to be led by science.
“Yes we continue to be led by the science, and I think today’s guidance is an excellent example of that,” he told the government’s daily coronavirus press briefing.
“We’ve had extensive discussions with the sporting bodies concerned over a number of weeks and we have come together with a package of guidance which we’re confident will minimise risks.”
He added: “The impact is going to be exceptionally minimal”.
The government has issued health and safety guidelines which will pave the way for elite sport to return behind closed doors in England from Monday.
Mr Dowden said it was essential that people don’t congregate around stadiums, which is why more games will be aired on free television channels.
“Fans will behave responsibly” and will understand the need to watch at home, he said.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said playing elite sport again with carefully controlled measures is not going to have any meaningful impact on R – the reproduction number.
He said: “It would potentially be very different if there were full stadiums and all of the activities that go around going to a sports game – the restaurants, the pubs, the bars, etc – but we’re not in that space at the moment.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that from Monday in England, friends and families can meet in parks and gardens in socially distanced groups of six.
Earlier in the press conference Mr Dowden said: “We’re taking very tentative steps principally focussed outside where the risk of transmission is much lower.”