The government has (yet again) warned against laxity in following Covid-appropriate behaviour, with particular reference to disquieting visuals from the past few days of large crowds at popular holiday and tourist destinations.
The Health Ministry described these videos – which show hundreds flocking to hill stations like Himachal Pradesh’s Manali – as “cause for concern”, and reminded people the virus spreads aggressively in crowded places.
To drive home its point the government referred to the spike in cases in the United Kingdom, where 60,000 were allowed in to London’s Wembley Stadium this week for the semi finals of the 2020 European football championship, and another 60,000 are expected for Sunday’s final.
England is facing a new wave of cases, fuelled by a combination of contagious variants and (an ill advised, some experts say) emergence from lockdown. This week the UK, which is likely to lift restrictions from July 19, saw over 30,000 daily new cases for the first time since January.
Between Tuesday and Wednesday the UK saw a 13 per cent spike, or 3,848 increase in new cases.
Experts fear a potentially massive increase in the days and weeks after the match on Sunday, which is England’s first final in a major tournament in 55 years and which was celebrated by thousands of fans – many without masks – partying in pubs and city streets with no thought to social distancing.
It is unclear if the football contributed directly to the spike in cases, particularly since the country is also lifting restrictions on movement and travel, but several other European countries have reported an increase corresponding with the hosting of the tournament.
Germany has questioned the decision by UEFA – European football’s governing body – to allow bigger crowds in stadiums as the tournament has gone on.
Italy has also seen a spike in cases, with epidemiologists in both countries warning the tournament might be to blame.
On Thursday, Russia reported 672 deaths over the past 24 hours, setting yet another pandemic high.
The World Health Organization this week called for better monitoring of cases and travelling fans, with concern that the more transmissible ‘delta’ variant of the virus may be spreading.
“There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined,” the agency’s Europe director Hans Kluge said. Asked if Euro 2020 was potentially acting as a “super-spreader” event, he said: “I hope not… but this can’t be excluded.”
Euro 2020, as it is called, has been held in multiple cities across Europe – from London to Baku in Azerbaijan and St Petersburg in Russia. Stands in Budapest in Hungary were packed.
London’s Wembley matches have been described as “pilot events” – for larger crowds where fans must either test negative for COVID-19 or be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
In India, sports activities and crowds at stadiums were tightly controlled in the initial phases of the lockdown but, as different states ease restrictions, these too are now being opened up.
The India-England cricket series earlier this year started out with crowds at stadiums; a record attendance of nearly 60,000 was reported from one T-20 match in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. But as the second Covid wave started to take hold, fans were banned from attending other matches.
With input from AFP, Reuters