BERLIN (dpa-AFX) – Before the final days of the European Football Championship, the European health authority ECDC noted a significant increase in corona infections in connection with the EM. By the end of the third week of the tournament there had been more than 2500 cases in seven countries that could be linked to the European Championship, the EU agency confirmed at the request of the German press agency. The development was “not unexpected” in view of the corona situation, said the responsible director Vicky Lefevre. Large events with crowds are still fraught with risks.
The staging of the EM during the pandemic and the admission of thousands of spectators to the eleven venues was the subject of heated debates, especially in Germany. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) had described the attitude of the European Football Union (UEFA) as “absolutely irresponsible”. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) was “worried and skeptical” about the admission of 60,000 fans to the semi-finals and final at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Of the infections registered so far in connection with the EM, Scotland is by far the most severely affected, with 1991 cases, according to the ECDC. The Scottish team played their European Championship group games in Glasgow and London’s Wembley Stadium. In the UK, the more contagious Delta variant of the virus is spreading rapidly. ECDC Director Lefevre pointed out that the Delta variant was not “on the scene” when the plans for the European Championship games with tens of thousands of spectators were tied down.
In Finland, 436 cases were recently registered in connection with the football tournament, especially after Finland’s team played in St. Petersburg and fans apparently brought the virus with them from Russia. Some cases have also been reported from Denmark, France, Sweden, Croatia and the Netherlands. In Germany, no corona infections have been found directly in connection with EM.
It is not certain where the affected fans were infected. This could have happened in stadiums as well as in fan zones, during travel and at private meetings around the Games, explained the ECDC experts. By traveling fans to European Championship games in countries with higher numbers of infections, returnees could accelerate the spread of the virus in their home countries, the authority warned again.
Before that, the European Director of the World Health Organization WHO, Hans Kluge, appealed to all people who now want to attend football matches or are planning a vacation trip to weigh the risks carefully and to protect themselves. “Yes of course, we are clearly concerned,” he said, referring to the European Championship tournament.
Ultimately, however, it is a “political decision which risk one is willing to tolerate,” said ECDC Director Lefevre. During the time of the pandemic, the countries learned which indicators to watch out for in the development of the infection rate. “We are still in the situation where we say that if you continue to relax significantly, then we will get back to a situation like in autumn 2020,” warned Lefevre.
For the ECDC, at least two experts check the infection rate around the European Football Championship every day. The investigations began a week before the start of the tournament and will end a week after the final on this Sunday./hc/DP/ngu