Liverpool’s Champions League tie at Anfield with Atlético Madrid should not have been played, the city council’s director of public health has said, amid concern at the rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases there.

Matthew Ashton, who began in the role on Wednesday, is responsible for coordinating the response to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic while having to work from home, as confirmed cases in Liverpool rose to 262.

“It was not the right decision to stage the match,” Ashton told the Guardian, although he said he was not critical of the scientists or medical officers whose advice informed the government’s approach of allowing sporting events to continue. “People don’t make bad decisions on purpose – perhaps the seriousness of the situation wasn’t being understood across government at that time.

“Although we will never know, the Atlético Madrid game could have been one of the cultural events and gatherings that influenced the rise in Liverpool. It is definitely one to be included on the list for learning and for a future inquiry, so that organisations can learn and not make similar mistakes.”