'Legitimate questions' over whether Cheltenham Festival may be linked to coronavirus deaths

Councillors and scientists say there are 'legitimate questions' to be asked over whether last month's Cheltenham Festival may be linked to a spike in Covid-19 deaths at a local NHS trust.

The three-day event went ahead in early March and was attended by around 125,000 people, despite warnings that the virus was beginning to spread through the country.

It was one of several big events which took place in the week before the UK went into lockdown, including the Bath half marathon and many other sporting fixtures.

Gloucestershire NHS Trust, which runs both Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General hospitals, has the highest rate of virus-related deaths in the region, according to data from the Health Service Journal.

But public health officials say there is no evidence to prove this spike is linked to the festival.

But some leading scientists are warning that we should be careful not to jump to conclusions about cause and effect.

The festival went ahead under government guidance. Credit: PA

Read more: Authorities issue warning as up to 50 surfers pictured at Cornish beach

Gloucestershire County Council's director of public health agrees, saying the high number of deaths in the county could be caused by a number of reasons.

The Jockey Club declined to comment today, but they have previously defended their decision, saying the festival 'went ahead under Government guidance'.

Coronavirus: Live updates on COVID-19 in the West Country