Some of the country’s leading sports stars will be teaming up with the NHS this weekend to issue a rallying cry for fans to play their part in showing coronavirus the red card by staying at home.
The nation’s top footballers, managers, cricket and basketball players are casting aside their rivalries to unite in supporting the NHS #StayHomeSaveLives social media campaign.
The flurry of online messages will kick off tonight at 8pm when the England vs Italy international game was due to get under way – led by the Three Lions' Gareth Southgate.
Tonight will see the England national team express solidarity with Italy who have also been in a heart-breaking battle against the coronavirus.
Top football players and managers – including Raheem Sterling, Steph Houghton and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - will also urge their fans to stay at home on Saturday from 3pm – the time the starting whistle would traditionally blow on their games.
Other sports are telling their fans to stay at home also, including London Lions Basketball Ace Justin Robinson, two-time British Basketball League MVP and Team GB star.
England cricket men's test captain Joe Root and England's women cricket captain Heather Knight are also calling on their fans to stay at home.
By lending the NHS their massive social media audiences, the stars hope to help reinforce the advice from medics and scientists for everyone, and particularly those at greatest risk, to stay at home. This will slow the spread of coronavirus and therefore save more lives, and at the same time support health service staff in meeting the challenge they face from the global pandemic.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “I know lots of people will be missing their weekend sporting rituals over the coming weeks – whether it’s going to the ground, the pub or round their friends’ house to watch their favourite teams compete.
“But nobody can sit on the bench when it comes to the national response to the global coronavirus pandemic, which is why the NHS is calling up sporting heroes to help their fans through this tough time, and encourage them to do the right thing and stay at home.
“Our NHS staff are working round the clock gearing up to deal with this unprecedented challenge, and it’s fantastic to see sport stars helping to amplify their important message: stay home, save lives.”
England Men’s Manager Gareth Southgate said: “Life is very different for us all at the moment and sport rightfully stands aside to support a more important cause during these unprecedented times.
“We were supposed to be welcoming Italy and Denmark to Wembley Stadium in the coming days but football is insignificant as we are all in the midst of a global battle.
“Now is the time for sport to come together, speak with one voice and be united behind a very clear message: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives."
As the nation enters a crucial stage in trying to manage the coronavirus, it’s vital the public does their bit to help the NHS by staying at home.
The latest Government advice makes it clear that everybody should stay at home and:
• Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)
• Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
• Wash your hands more regularly, and for 20 seconds
England Lioness and Manchester City captain Steph Houghton MBE said: “Whilst so many of us love watching and playing football and sport in general, it’s not important at the moment, everybody is adapting to new situations and although it’s different and difficult, we are seeing the best in people, communities supporting one another by dropping off shopping, picking up prescriptions and people reaching out through apps to talk and support each other.
"Last night’s show of support for the NHS shows how much we appreciate them and how we are all coming together to get through this as quickly and as safely as we can, football will return and we will appreciate it a little more for the joy it brings but for now Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.”
England Women’s cricket captain Heather Knight said: “We saw on Thursday night just how special the NHS is to this country, and we should all be so proud of the incredible work they’re doing to keep people safe.
“In order to protect them and to help save lives, we all need to stay inside. I know from talking to my brother – who’s a Doctor – that it’s the single most important thing we can all do. Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
England Men’s test cricket captain Joe Root said: “We’re normally doing our best to get you out of the house to pick up a bat or to get to a match, but at the moment we all need to stay inside and do our own little bit to keep people safe.
“If we all work together to stay inside then we can help those working flat-out on the frontlines to save lives.”
The campaign is the latest effort by sports Clubs to play their part in helping the country through the coronavirus pandemic.
Players from Premier League and EFL Clubs have already shown their support for the NHS in numerous ways. This includes providing facilities for medical use and as accommodation for NHS staff, supporting foodbanks, transporting food and medicines, and calling the most vulnerable members of society.
This week has seen the public rally behind the NHS with over an incredible 700,000 people signing up to volunteer to help the NHS.