Tuesday, December 7, 2021

New Delta wave being boosted by Euro football, WHO warns

Germany has called football authority Uefa irresponsible for allowing too many fans inside stadiums.

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Europe’s Covid-19 infections have risen by 10% in a week after two months in decline, and the risk of a new wave of cases is growing, says the World Health Organization.

Regional director Hans Kluge said the risk has been heightened by slow vaccine rollouts, new variants and increased social mixing.

There is also a danger that the Euro 2020 football tournament in which matches are played in different countries could be acting as a “super-spreader”. Hundreds of fans returning from games in London and St Petersburg have tested positive.

WHO senior emergency officer Catherine Smallwood called on host cities to do more to monitor the movement of visiting fans.

“We need to look at around the stadia,” she said. “What’s happening before and especially after the games? Are fans going into crowded bars and pubs?”

The European Union’s disease control agency (ECDC) estimates that the Delta variant could account for 90% of cases by the end of August. And top health officials are also talking of a new Delta-plus variant.

Russia has seen record numbers of Delta deaths for the past three days.

Euro 2020 host city St Petersburg recorded 115 deaths in 24 hours on Thursday, on the eve of hosting its sixth and last tournament match between Spain and Switzerland.

Health authorities in Finland appealed to the public to avoid travelling to Russia after 400 infections were linked to fans returning from St Petersburg.

European football’s governing body, Uefa, was branded “irresponsible” by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who said it was clear that supporters hugging each other would help spread the virus.

He was particularly critical of the decision to allow 60,000 supporters into the stadiums in Budapest and at Wembley in London for the semi-finals and final.

Uefa is adamant that decisions on the number of fans allowed inside a stadium “fall under the responsibility of the local authorities”.

Portugal is imposing a night-time curfew on Lisbon, Porto and other municipalities from Friday because of the biggest increase in cases since February.

Spain has reported a sharp rise among people in their 20s – up to 366 cases per 100,000 people.

Germany expects the Delta variant to account for over 70% of cases this month so may relax quarantine measures on visitors from the UK and Portugal where the variant is already prevalent.

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