MATTHEW Ashton, Liverpool City Council’s director of public health, has strongly urged that the city’s Champions League match with Atletico Madrid be investigated as the possible cause of 246 deaths there since the outbreak began.
On March 11, just days before the complete lockdown began in Spain, and while partial restrictions were already in place, 3,000 Spanish fans traveled from Madrid to Merseyside to watch the tie.
At the time, Spain was experiencing the beginning of the crisis that has caused the country to have one of the highest death rates in the world.
Madrid was the epicentre of the epidemic in Spain while Liverpool had only six confirmed cases, prompting concerns that the away fans help spread the virus among the 53,000 fans in attendance.
In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, the government’s deputy chief scientific adviser, Angela McLean explained the idea that the game was the catalyst of such high illness rates in the two cities is an ‘interesting hypothesis.’
She added: “I’m genuinely sad to hear that so many people in Liverpool have been unwell and so many have died.
“I think it would be very interesting to see in the future when all the science is done what relationship there is between the viruses that have circulated in Liverpool and the viruses that have circulated in Spain.”
The UK Government’s comments are another blow to Spain’s handling of COVID-19 in the early stages of the crisis.
This was the second large European football match involving a Spanish side to take place under partial lockdown.
The Champions League tie between Italian side Atalanta and Valencia on March 10 was also widely criticised as being a ‘biological bomb‘ by Mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori.
His scolding remarks came after 2,500 Valencia fans attended the clash in Milan, potentially helping to infect 45,000 people.