Euro final fuels outbreak fears as nations fight virus surges

Add Time:2021-07-13 Hits:58

British authorities warned against large gatherings ahead of the Euro 2020 football final Sunday, fearful of the highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant that has fuelled outbreaks across the world.

Many nations have been forced to reimpose curbs as they battle outbreaks accelerated by the variant -- which was first detected in India -- while also trying to ramp up vaccinations to allow their economies to reopen.

London on Sunday will host 65,000 fans at Wembley Stadium for the final of the virus-delayed Euro 2020 championship, the biggest crowd at a British football stadium since the start of the pandemic, as the home side take on Italy.

Authorities are particularly concerned about the risk of large gatherings at fan zones and pubs across England to watch the country's first appearance in a major football final in more than half a century.

"London still remains in a public health crisis," Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said Saturday, urging people to remain socially distanced.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled he intends to ease all remaining restrictions in England on July 19, but infection rates are once again surging across Britain -- driven by the Delta variant.

His government has argued that, with more than 85 percent of adults having received at least one shot, the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths has been severed.

But many scientists are deeply uneasy with relaxing all remaining rules, including social distancing and the legal requirement to wear masks on public transport and in indoor spaces.

Health experts have expressed concerns about Euro 2020 events becoming super-spreaders throughout the tournament, especially in Britain and Russia because of the Delta variant.

Authorities in Denmark, Finland and Scotland have already reported infections among fans after they attended Euro matches.

Elsewhere in Europe, after an "exponential" rise in cases, officials in the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia said they had no choice but to reimpose restrictions.

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