The government’s chief scientific adviser says he is “not aware” of any cases of Covid-19 transmission between children playing football outdoors.
All children’s grassroots football will be halted in England during the four-week national lockdown from Thursday.
Youth sport will only be permitted in schools.
Sir Patrick Vallance said the measures also take into account “interactions” at events such as grassroots sport outside school.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and Vallance were asked about the suspension of youth sport in a science and technology select committee meeting on Tuesday.
When asked by chairman Greg Clark MP if he knew of any instance of coronavirus infection taking place between children playing grassroots football, Vallance said: “Not that I’m aware of. There may be evidence, but I haven’t seen it.”
Clark said the ban on youth sport seemed “perverse” given the low transmission rates outdoors and the importance of exercise for children and asked whether it was something Vallance could “further advise” the government on.
“We’ve been very clear as to where we think the areas of transmission are most likely to be,” said Vallance.
“But we must also be very clear that an entire package must take into account everything, including interactions around events, which become quite important.
“Then it’s for policy makers to decide what policies they want to adopt on the basis of that.”
When asked by Clark if they advised the government that outdoors children’s sport should be banned, Vallance said: “They’ve had advice from us in terms of the general principles but not down to specific individual activities like that.”
Whitty added it would be “deeply unhelpful” for them to start “trying to unpick really difficult packages” that the government had put together by advising them to reverse a ban on children’s grassroots sport.
He said: “This is a difficult balancing act across government. We fully understand that and our job is to give the broad advice and then leave it up to them to integrate the various elements.”
Elite sport can continue behind closed doors during the lockdown.
There were calls for youth sport to be exempt when the new restrictions come into effect on Thursday.
Former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage, who coaches a junior team, criticised the decision to suspend children’s sport in a series of tweets, asking Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden if he realizes “the impact of this decision on youngsters’ mental and physical wellbeing?”
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