Coronavirus: Barack Obama says cancelling major events will slow spread of virus

Barack Obama has spoken out on coronavirus, suggesting that large gatherings and major events should be cancelled. (Picture: PA)

Barack Obama has weighed in on the debate over measures to halt the spread of coronavirus, suggesting that cancelling large gatherings and public events could slow the spread of the virus.

The former US President tweeted a graph that he said illustrated how cancelling major events could delay the peak of an outbreak.

He wrote: “If you’re wondering whether it’s an overreaction to cancel large gatherings and public events (and I love basketball), here’s a useful primer as to why these measures can slow the spread of the virus and save lives. We have to look out for each other.”

Obama’s tweet seems at odds with the position consistently adopted by the UK government, which has said that cancelling major public events would have little effect on the spread of Covid-19.

On Thursday, Boris Johnson said there was no medical reason to ban major events.

Addressing the point, the Prime Minister said: “We are considering banning major public events like sporting fixtures.

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He said: “The scientific advice is this has little effect on the spread - but it does place a burden on other public services."

“We are guided by the science; there is no medical reason at the moment to ban such events.

“We are not saying no to that sort of measure, we are keeping it up our sleeves. But it is very, very important in order to maximise our interventions that we get the timing right.”

These are the number of countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus. (Picture: PA)

Other countries have taken steps to limit large numbers of people gathering.

In Spain, football matches have been played behind closed doors while other countries have banned large events, including Sweden, France and Italy, as well as some states in the US.

On Thursday the UK government escalated its coronavirus response to the “delay” phase, with the government now telling people who suffer any symptoms to stay at home for seven days.

The move came after the number of UK cases reached 590, up 134 from Wednesday’s figure of 456. There have been 10 deaths.

As well saying people showing symptoms – a persistent cough or fever – should stay at home for a week, Johnson urged people over 70 not to go on cruise ships, and for schools not to take pupils on international trips.

But he stopped short of banning large-scale public events such as sporting fixtures and said the government has no plans to close schools.