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Euro 2020 final and semi-finals being hosted at Wembley is safe, insists minister

Mr Whittingdale insisted that the capacity could be boosted without derailing the end of Britain’s lockdown (PA Wire)
Mr Whittingdale insisted that the capacity could be boosted without derailing the end of Britain’s lockdown (PA Wire)

A minister today stressed that the Euro 2020 final and semi-finals can be hosted at Wembley without putting public health “at risk”.

John Whittingdale said that around 2,000 VIPs who are set to be allowed to come to London for the tournament’s climax would have to follow “strict restrictions”.

The minister in the culture, media and sports department appeared to hint that a limited number of overseas fans may also be permitted to attend the competition’s showdown.

Mr Whittingdale also raised the prospect of bigger crowds at other events after the capacity was raised for the three Euro games at Wembley to more than 60,000. The matches on July 6, 7 and 11 will see the largest crowds at a sporting event in the UK in more than 15 months.

However, Mr Whittingdale insisted that the capacity could be boosted without derailing the end of Britain’s lockdown, which is due to happen just days later on July 19.

He told Sky News: “We are obviously listening to the scientific advice and we won’t do anything that will put public health at risk. Even though the capacity is going up, people will still be required to demonstrate that they have either had two vaccinations or that they have had a negative Covid test.”

Pressed over the VIPs heading to London without having to quarantine, he added: “We have listened very carefully to our own scientific advisers. They are content that we can move to this next stage. Yes, there will be some people coming in but they will be coming in to attend the game, they will be under the strict restrictions as to what else they can do. We have measured these things very carefully and we won’t do anything that will put our success at risk. But I think we are now at the stage where we can look forward to some relaxation. If this pilot works, hopefully we can expand it in due course.”

Details of an agreement, including precise numbers, are still being negotiated with Uefa although the vast majority of spectators will be from the UK.

A minister today stressed that the Euro 2020 final and semi-finals can be hosted at Wembley without putting public health “at risk” (PA Wire)
A minister today stressed that the Euro 2020 final and semi-finals can be hosted at Wembley without putting public health “at risk” (PA Wire)

Mr Whittingdale told Talk Radio: “We are talking to Uefa about allowing VIPs, or people associated with the teams to attend. But they won’t be allowed to just roam around Britain freely. They’ll be coming in to attend a match. They’ll be having to stay in a designated place to go the match, go home again.”

Around 2,000 Uefa and Fifa officials, politicians, sponsors and broadcasters are expected to be exempt from quarantine under some form of a “bubble” system. This will spark controversy given that self-isolation restrictions apply to Britons returning from “amber” list countries.

Mr Whittingdale’s upbeat comments came as England fans celebrated Gareth Southgate’s squad qualifying for the knock-out stage of the tournament, after beating the Czech Republic 1-0 last night at Wembley, where there was a crowd of 20,000.

The tournament will deliver a boost to London’s economy, particularly the hospitality sector, which has been hard hit by lockdowns. It will also showcase the capital on the world stage as it emerges from the restrictions and seeks to attract tourists again.

Asked about Wembley hosting the games, Professor David Nabarro, a special envoy in Europe on Covid-19 for the World Health Organisation, emphasised that “there are multiple sides to this”.

Fans watching England vs Croatia (PA Wire)
Fans watching England vs Croatia (PA Wire)

He told Sky News: “If I’m talking to you just as a public health doctor, I’m going to have to say that there are real questions to be asked because there is rising incidence in the UK, and we really do know that when you mingle people together you’re more likely to get spread.

“But as a citizen, I’m also thinking that it’s time for us all to start to work out how we’re going to get on with our lives, even though there are viruses in our midst. And we can’t just stop doing everything because we’re scared.”

Professor Nabarro, the chair of Global Health at Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, added: “Instead, I’ll tell you what we have to do — we have to learn how to pick up signs that this virus is picking up in an area, and then we have to know very clearly what has got to be done so that we don’t end up with an explosive outbreak that kills a lot of people.”

The Government struck the deal with Uefa after suggestions that the final could be moved to Budapest or Rome if the large number of VIPs had been banned from entering the UK.

It will publish the results of trials of mass events before the final stage of the lifting of restrictions. Mr Whittingdale told Sky News that the review, which follows mass events such as the Brit Awards and the FA Cup final going ahead in person, would be made public, but he added “it’s a complicated exercise, it needs a lot of analysis, and obviously we want to be absolutely confident of the findings before we publish”.

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