More than 9,000 Covid infections were linked to Euro 2020 soccer matches controlled by the government’s mass event testing program, and scientists have said the tournament posed “a significant risk to public health.”
An analysis of the third and final stage of the research program, released on Friday, found that more than 85% of all infections related to the 49 days of various outdoor sports, music and entertainment events came from the eight games of euros involved, and mainly the semifinal and the final.
Such were the disparities in Covid infections between crowds of euros and those who attended Wimbledon, another test event, that government scientists have floated the idea that soccer fans can bring drinks to their seats, as they do. at tennis championships, to avoid dense crowds. gathering around the bars.
The study, jointly led by the department of culture and Public Health England, found that 9,402 positive tests for Covid emerged from fans at Eurocup games, with 3,036 people reporting symptoms within two days of the game, which indicates that they are likely to have been infectious at the time of the game.
The ministers argue that in all three stages of the test program, which also covered closed venues, the case numbers were largely similar to or lower than the overall infection rates for the time, meaning massive events can take place. in a safe way.
But a study paper On the final phase, led by Dr Jenifer Smith, England’s Deputy Medical Director for Public Health, says that while euros were not typical, it is important to learn lessons from the scale of infection they brought.
“The Euro 2020 tournament and England’s advance to the Euro final created significant public health risk across the UK, even when England played abroad,” the report states. “This risk arose not only from the people who attended the event itself, but also included the activities carried out during the trip and the associated social activities.”
Contrasting this with Wimbledon, where the entertainment courts were up to 100% capacity, but the combined crowds of around 300,000 generated only 881 cases, the study notes: “Investigative teams present at each of these events have verbally reported marked differences in crowd and spectator behavior. “
Aside from the issue of crowds around bars, the study says that Euro viewers became less and less compliant with the rules on things like masks, while the England v Italy final, which generated nearly half of the cases. of Euros Covid, was marked by massive disorder, including the intrusion of fans without tickets.
“Euro 2020 was a unique occasion and it is unlikely that we will see a similar impact on Covid-19 cases from future events,” Smith said. “However, the data shows how easily the virus can spread when there is close contact, and this should be a warning to all of us as we try to return to cautious normality once again.”
Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said: “We have shown that we can safely reintroduce massive sporting and cultural events, but it is important for people to be cautious when mixing in crowded settings.”
In addition to the Euros and Wimbledon, the other events in the finals were a series of international cricket matches, the Royal Ascot races, the Open golf tournament in Kent, the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Download music festival. .
Download only had 81 cases identified among the 10,000 people who attended for three days.
While mitigation measures varied between events, all participants had to show that they were fully vaccinated, had antibodies against Covid, or had tested negative for the virus in the previous 48 hours. The only exception was in the final of the Eurocup, where the magnitude of the disorder meant the suspension of controls.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism