A council has apologised after suggesting the Challenger space shuttle disaster 'could teach us a lesson on how we respond to coronavirus.'

A series of now deleted Tweets, posted on Stockport council's official Twitter account on Thursday night, evoked the disaster in a bid to encourage people to follow the message to stay home to help slow the spread of the virus.

The tweets suggested that a lesson about heeding expert advice could be drawn from the tragedy, in which seven astronauts died.

The posts were quickly branded to be in poor taste, including by Cheadle Hulme North councillor Tom Morrison, who replied: "This is simply in the worst taste imaginable.

"Please take it down".

The first of a series of now deleted Tweets

The posts have now been deleted. The council has said it is sorry for any upset caused.

Seven people lost their lives when Challenger exploded shortly after launch in January 1986, including Christa McAuliffe, who had been selected from thousands of applicants to become the first teacher in space.

Footage of the devastating incident, which was later discovered to have been set in motion by the failure of an 'O-ring' seal, was broadcast live around the world.

The launch had gone ahead despite prior warnings from engineers that the seals were not suitable, given the cold weather at the time. 

The tweets, which also included a series of photos, emojis and memes, read: "In 1986 the Challenger space shuttle exploded over the skies of Floria whilst being watched by millions on live tv.

"This explosion can teach us a lesson on how we respond to coronavirus.

"Curious? Carry on reading this thread.

"The explosion was caused by the formation of ice around the space shuttle's O- rings, which were used to separate the rocket boosters from the shuttle.

"We're going somewhere with this, trust us.

"You see there had been warnings about that this could happen.

"Engineer Bob Ebeling warned that the extremely cold weather would prevent the O-rings from sealing properly and would cause an explosion!

"Bob and another engineer requested that the shuttle's launch be delayed until the weather was better.

"But... the executives dismissed the delay and The Challenger took off against Bob's insistence only to explode in mid air 73 seconds after take off.

"So why are we telling you all this?

"DO NOT IGNORE EXPERT ADVICE!

"Listen to them. They know best.

#StayHomeSaveLives"

A spokesperson for Stockport council said: "The council has taken down the tweets. We apologise for any upset caused."

The council has been using its account to share details of what support is available to residents in the borough, to highlight changes to services and to encourage people to follow official guidance.

It has also shared a number of more informal Tweets in recent days, such as messages about what has been achieved by people in the past who were in isolation, such as Sir Isaac Newton continuing with his work while isolating from the plague, and Shakespeare writing a number of his most well known plays while theatres were closed.