Italian at Cheltenham Festival branded ‘selfish idiot’ for sick coronavirus joke

An Italian racegoer at this year's Cheltenham Festival has been branded a "selfish, arrogant idiot" for joking about spreading the coronavirus at the event.

The punter was interviewed by a BBC Radio 4 reporter for the World at One show at the four-day festival which attracts 60,000 people.

Italy is the world's worst-hit country after China with 1,016 deaths among the 15,113 people infected.

As his fellow nationals continued to battle against the disease he boasted: "I'm Italian, I'm here. I'm fine. I'm happy.

"If I'm going to spread it, I'll spread it now…I would  not miss this for the world."

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Another punter added: "I'm happy to stand next to him – English and Italian together."

Another racegoer claimed it was "all a myth" while another person added: "I'd rather get coronavirus than the festival be off.

"It's something to be endured not to be scared off.  I think it will be fine."

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While a lady at the races told the BBC reporter on day one of the event: "I'm very pleased it's going ahead.

"I forgot my hand gel also…disaster."

The Italian punter's comments will no doubt shock his fellow nationals who are on lockdown across the country.

Twitter user Betty Jatkins said: "It is absolutely appalling and disgusting. Did you hear the interviews with Cheltenham race goers on #wato yesterday?

"They're treating corona as a joke, it was awful and I think it was disgraceful that the BBC broadcasted it.

"I feel truly sorry for NHS staff who will have to deal with the deadly aftermath."

She later added:"I am still appalled that BBC thought it was appropriate to broadcast the comments of people at Cheltenham yesterday, who obviously thought coronavirus was a joke.

"Those people will be spreading the virus, endangering the lives others and increasing stress/workload for the NHS. "

Another Twitter user replied: "I totally agree. They came across as selfish,arrogant idiots."

Cheltenham organisers have come under fire for letting the annual event, which an estimated 250,000 people will have visited, to still go ahead.

But Cheltenham racecourse’s managing director, Ian Renton, insists they took advice from the UK Government before making the decision to remain open.

He told talkSPORT: "We have been liaising closely with the government over the last fortnight and during the festival as well.

"Racing and the government over here have a very close relationship and we would always work with them, and seek their advice and recommendation in whatever we do.

"We have communicated with all our racegoers and all the participants to ensure they heed the government guidelines and look at the guidelines, and if they are advised not to come for any reason at all they should follow that advice.

"We have given a link to the government website, so as that advice changes they follow any updated advice as well."

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