EU politicians demand Wembley is stripped of Euro 2020 final due to UK Delta outbreak
A senior EU politician has said hosting the Euro 2020 final at Wembley while cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 are soaring across the UK was a "recipe for disaster" and demanded the stadium be stripped of the final games.
Pascal Canfin, chair of the environment committee of the European Parliament, said in a letter he considered the decision to increase capacity at Wembley for the semi-finals and finals despite the spread of the Delta variant was "a recipe for disaster."
UEFA has ruled out changing the location or capacity limits of any of the remaining games for Euro 2020.
The letter pointed to analysis which suggested the Delta variant was 40-60% more transmissible to the Alpha variant, and that the UK was reporting around 20,000 cases a day – a ten-fold increase from early May.
The letter says: "Acting responsibly to halt the spread of this variant is imperative."
It points to the recent outbreak of cases linked to the Finland vs Russia game held in St Petersburg, which represented "half of the new contaminations of Finland."
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The letter states: "We demand therefore that the UEFA reconsiders its decision to organise the Euro 2020's semi-finals and final at the Wembley Stadium, or at least, that the UEFA and the UK authorities reassess health and safety measures and the crowd capacity decision, as stricter measures are the only alternatives available to guarantee the health and safety of football fans."
Wembley is expected to host 60,000 fans for the final of Euro 2020 on 11 July which represents around 75% capacity and significantly more than the just over 40,000 fans who were allowed to attend the England vs Germany game.
The government has been criticised for relaxing quarantine rules for UEFA VIPs from the participating teams.
It is expected thousands of delegates, sponsors and officials will be able to avoid the quarantine rules.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted to LBC he was "not completely relaxed" about the decision.
The letter was addressed to the president of the European Parliament David Sassoli asking for him to petition Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel over the issue.
The World Health Organization has said crowds mixing in Euro 2020 host cities has contributed to the reverse of a steady decline of cases across Europe for the first time in more than two months.
UEFA’s medical chief has admitted it “cannot be excluded” that there will be COVID-19 cases linked to matches at Euro 2020.
Figures published by Public Health Scotland (PHS) on Wednesday showed 1,991 residents who later had a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis were in their transmission period while at gatherings related to the tournament between 11 and 28 June.
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Nearly two-thirds of cases - or 1,294 people - reported travelling to London at around the time of the match against England on 18 June, with 397 going inside Wembley for the game.
Euro 2020 medical advisor Dr Daniel Koch said on Thursday: “It cannot be totally excluded that events and gatherings could ultimately lead to some local increase in the number of cases, but this would not only apply to football matches, but also to any kind of situations that are now allowed as part of the easing measures decided by the competent local authorities."
Despite the admission, UEFA ruled out any alteration to the match schedule or capacity limits for the final stages.
UEFA said in a statement: “All the remaining matches of Euro 2020 will go ahead according to the match schedule as planned.
“The mitigation measures implemented in each of the Euro 2020 host venues are fully aligned with the regulations set out by the competent local public health authorities.
“The final decisions with regards to the number of fans attending matches and the entry requirements to any of the host countries and host stadiums fall under the responsibility of the competent local authorities, and UEFA strictly follows any such measures.”
In recent days members of the German and Italian governments have criticised the decision to host so many fans at Wembley as the Delta variant spreads across the UK.
The UK reported 26,068 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest daily number since late January.
England will play Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Rome on Saturday.
Watch: England football fans told not to go to Euro quarter-final