A spokesman for the Spanish grand prix venue in Barcelona has hit back at claims that thousands of people should not be gathering next weekend amid the risk of a global illness pandemic.

A spokesman for the Spanish grand prix venue in Barcelona has hit back at claims that thousands of people should not be gathering next weekend amid the risk of a global illness pandemic.

International fear about deadly swine flu stepped into a high gear this week, leading German health minister Ulla Schmidt to remark that "there cannot be a major gathering of 70,000 people if thousands of them could become infected".

The comments were met with anger by organisers of next weekend's formula one race at the Circuit de Catalunya, whose local region Catalonia has been one of the worst hit in Europe in terms of suspected flu infections.

"In the position of a minister you should not be causing alarm to the population. It's out of place," the spokesman, asked about Schmidt's comments, is quoted as saying by the Spanish sports daily Marca.

All but one of the suspected 177 deaths so far have occurred in Mexico, causing organisers of the open-wheeler series A1GP to cancel next month's race in the country.

 

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