The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the attention of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to look for a better way to handle Euro 2020 football matches in the wake of COVID-19 as spike in deadly Delta variant was reported, linking it to the crowds at football stadiums and in pubs and bars in host cities. The tournament is down to its quarterfinals going to the semis.
“There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined,” the UN agency’s Europe director Hans Kluge told a press conference. He warned that the region had seen a 10 percent rise in cases over the past week, “driven by increased mixing, travel, gatherings and easing of social restrictions”. It is learnt that a 10-week decline in Covid-19 cases across the region has come to an end.
The warning came after 26,068 positive test results were reported across the UK. In Scotland this week, as many 1,300 Scottish fans tested positive for COVID-19 after travelling to London for a match, Public Health Scotland reported. Of the 1,991 people identified to have attended a Euro 2020 event, 1,294 we infected and had traveled to London, while 397 had gone to Wembley.
“We need to look much beyond just the stadiums themselves,” WHO’s senior emergency officer, Catherine Smallwood, told reporters. “We need to look at how people get there, are they travelling in large crowded convoys? And when they leave the stadiums, are they going into crowded bars and pubs to watch the matches? It is these small continuous events that are driving the spread of the virus.”
Earlier, German Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer slammed UEFA, calling its decision to allow big crowds at Euro 2020 “utterly irresponsible” considering the health dangers. “I consider the position of UEFA to be absolutely irresponsible,” Seehofer said. “We all know that contact avoidance and certain hygiene rules are indispensable to overcome infections.”
Meanwhile, UEFA told a news agency that “all the remaining matches will go ahead according to the match schedule as planned”. UEFA’s Euro 2020 medical advisor Daniel Koch said vaccinations and border controls would prevent a big new wave. According to reports, 60,000 spectators are set to be allowed for the semi-finals and final at Wembley.
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