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London marathon should be postponed, says charity chief

By Catherine Wylie, PA

A charity boss in training for the London Marathon has called for the event to be postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Theresa Dauncey, chief executive of the National Brain Appeal, said it is a "non-essential voluntary" event that would put a "huge strain" on key services in the city.

More than 40,000 people run the marathon each year while around 750,000 spectators line the streets to cheer them on.

Ms Dauncey's charity, dedicated to raising funds for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology in London, would stand to raise around £100,000 from the event on April 26.

But she said rather than charities losing money if the marathon is postponed, income will just be delayed.

Ms Dauncey, who is due to run on behalf of the National Brain Appeal, said: "I think the decision should be taken now to postpone The London Marathon.

"It is a non-essential voluntary event. Whilst it is worth millions to charities, the organisation of it would put a huge strain on key services in London and relies heavily on volunteers.

"Many of the runners and volunteers will have vulnerable people at home and will be worried about attending.

"Without enough volunteers, the runners will not be supported."

She added: "Also, preparation for the runners involves increasing the length of training runs in the weeks leading up to the day.

"I understand that after long runs, your immunity is temporarily suppressed.

"The marathon is known for people taking part in spite of health conditions. This is one of the amazing things about the event.

"I feel there should be a duty of care towards these and all of the runners to know now whether to scale back their training and plan to step it up again around a date later in the year.

"If the marathon is postponed, charities would not lose the money they would potentially raise, it would just mean the timing of the income would be delayed."?

The call comes as the Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect.

Earlier, the UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said it is "eye-catching" to order the cancellation of mass gatherings and sporting events but the chances of contracting the disease by attending such occasions are slim.

He told the BBC: "Mass gatherings do have some impact, it is not that they don't do anything if you stop them.

"But they are very much more minor than the other ones.

"The most likely place you are going to get an infection from is a family member, a friend, someone very close in a small space, not in the big space."

Sir Patrick added: "It is sort of eye-catching to say 'stop those' (but) it is not actually a big effect on the transmission.

"That is not to say we wouldn't do it at some point but it is not the most important thing to get into place first."

Earlier this month, officials at the London Marathon said they were "monitoring closely" the developments relating to the spread of Covid-19.

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