Soccer crowds are driving Europe COVID cases: WHO

Crowds gathering for the Euro 2020 soccer tournament are driving the current rise in coronavirus infections in Europe, the World Health Organization said on Thursday (July 1).

The number of new cases rose by 10% last week.

The WHO says that was driven by the mixing of crowds in Euro 2020 host cities, travel, and the easing of social restrictions.

Catherine Smallwood is the WHO's senior emergency officer.

"What we need to look at is around the stadium, how are people getting there? Are they travelling in large crowded convoys or buses? Are they taking individual measures when they are doing that? What is happening after the games? When people leave the stadiums, are they going into crowded buses and pubs to watch the matches? And we have said that should these things, this mixing happen, there will be cases because if this mixing is happening among people who are not fully vaccinated and there is the presence of the virus, there will be cases."

The WHO said that Europe had seen a 10-week decline in new coronavirus infections before the games.

Now, the rise in new COVID-19 cases is happening as the more contagious Delta virus variant spreads rapidly across the continent.

Nearly 2,000 people who live in Scotland attended a Euro 2020 event while infectious with COVID-19, according to authorities.

European soccer's governing body UEFA said in a statement to Reuters that mitigation measures at host venues are quote, "fully aligned with the regulations set out by the competent local public health authorities".

German's Interior Minister called UEFA's decision to allow big crowds "utterly irresponsible".

And Italy has warned fans from England not to try to use loopholes in COVID travel restrictions to sneak into the quarter-finals in Rome on Saturday, even if they have a ticket.

The rise in infections has raised concern that a third wave could spread across Europe in the autumn if people don't get vaccinated.

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