Euro football tournament under fire for contributing to spread of COVID-19

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Soccer Football – Euro 2020 – Group D – England v Scotland – Wembley Stadium, London, Great Britain – June 18, 2021 Scottish supporters inside the stadium before the Pool match via REUTERS / Carl Recine

  • New COVID wave inevitable if fans, others let their guard down -WHO
  • UEFA says it is fully compliant with local guidelines at each venue
  • Italy have warned English fans not to try to sneak up to the quarter-finals
  • German Interior Minister calls UEFA “totally irresponsible”

COPENHAGEN, July 1 (Reuters) – The Euro 2020 soccer tournament was blamed on Thursday for an increase in coronavirus cases as fans flocked to stadiums, bars and spectator areas across Europe to watch the action as the pandemic still rages on.

Germany’s interior minister called UEFA, the governing body of European football, “totally irresponsible” for allowing large crowds at the tournament.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said mixed crowds in Euro 2020 host cities, travel and the easing of social restrictions had increased the number of new cases by 10%.

A 10-week drop in new infections across Europe has come to an end and a new wave is inevitable if football fans and others let their guard down, said Catherine Smallwood, WHO’s emergency manager in Copenhagen.

“We have to look way beyond the stadiums themselves,” Smallwood told reporters. “We have to look at how people get there, do they travel in large, crowded bus convoys? And when they leave the stadiums, do they go to crowded bars and pubs to watch the games?

These events have encouraged the spread of the virus, she said.

With COVID-19 restrictions varying from country to country, the size of the crowds has grown from fully full, like 60,000 in Budapest, to 25 to 45% of capacity at other sites where there is often had around 10 to 15,000 spectators.

UEFA said it was in full compliance with guidelines from local health authorities at each venue.

“Final decisions regarding the number of supporters attending matches and the conditions for entry into any of the host countries and host stadiums are the responsibility of the relevant local authorities, and UEFA strictly follows these measures,” he said. he said in a statement. .

But German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said UEFA’s stance was “totally irresponsible”.

“I cannot explain why UEFA is unreasonable … I suspect it is due to commercialism,” he told a press conference.

Seehofer said a match with 60,000 spectators – like the Puskas Arena in Hungary and also scheduled for the semi-finals and the final at Wembley Stadium in London – would inevitably help the spread of COVID-19.

While Europeans loved watching the tournament, concerns about the potential health repercussions have grown.

The Scottish health authority said 1,991 people were identified as participating in a Euro 2020 event while they were infectious, of whom 1,294 traveled to London and 397 to Wembley where England played against Scotland. Read more

Finland said more than 300 nationals were infected while supporting their team. Read more

And the Russian Deputy Prime Minister has called for a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people. St. Petersburg is set to host a quarter-final on Friday, with 50% capacity allowed in a stadium that could normally hold 68,000 people. Read more

COVID’S RETURNING HOME?

Italy have warned all English fans not to try to use loopholes in COVID-19 travel restrictions to sneak into Euro 2020 quarter-finals match between England and Ukraine in Rome Saturday, even if they have a ticket.

In a bid to prevent the spread of the highly contagious variant of the Delta coronavirus, Rome last month introduced a five-day quarantine for anyone coming to Italy who had visited Britain in the previous two weeks.

He made an exception for short business trips and visitors in transit, but on Thursday the Italian Embassy in London said anyone in the country under these circumstances would not be allowed to enter the stadium.

“UK-based fans should therefore not travel to Italy to watch Saturday’s game at the Olimpico stadium in Rome,” he said in a statement.

Checks are expected at the entrance to the stadium. Anyone who ignores the general quarantine rules could face a fine of up to 3,000 euros ($ 3,555), the health ministry said.

UEFA has announced that 16,000 fans will take part in Saturday’s game, or 25% of its total capacity.

The England Football Association has said it will not sell any tickets through the England Supporters Travel Club for the match due to travel restrictions.

Britain is grappling with a surge in infections caused by the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, reporting 26,068 new cases on Wednesday. Italy, by comparison, recorded just 776 daily cases. The Delta variant is now spreading rapidly across Europe.

“The fear of a fall flare is still there, but what we are seeing now is that it could happen even sooner,” said WHO’s Smallwood.

The Swiss national football team face Spain in St. Petersburg on Friday and more than 1,000 Swiss are expected to travel to the Russian city to watch the match.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has warned travelers that it would be unwise not to have been previously vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Things are exploding with the Delta variant,” Berset said.

“Without getting vaccinated, I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t. And if you’re vaccinated, you can go. But it comes with multiple risks. You have to be careful.”

UEFA medical adviser for Euro 2020 Daniel Koch said vaccinations and border checks would prevent a big new wave.

Events and rallies could lead to some increase in the number of cases, he said, but that would apply to all kinds of other situations, not just football.

Report by Reuters offices, edited by Angus MacSwan and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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