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Euro 2020 quarterfinals arrive amid coronavirus surge

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The number of coronavirus cases has risen in Europe for the first time in 10 weeks, a trend that coincides with the return of crowded stadiums for the Euro 2020 quarterfinals and has prompted Germanys interior minister to condemn soccers governing body.

"UEFA's position is utterly irresponsible," Horst Seehofer told a news conference Thursday. "I cannot explain why UEFA is not being sensible . . . I suspect it is due to commercialism."

Crowds have varied in size from completely full, with 60,000 in Budapest, to 10,000-15,000 (25%-45% capacity) in other stadiums since the tournament began June 11. Quarterfinal games Friday and Saturday will take place in Munich; St. Petersburg, Russia; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Rome. Crowds of 60,000 are expected for the semifinals next week in London's Wembley Stadium and Hungary's Puskas Arena. The final is July 11 in Wembley.

For its quarterfinal, St. Petersburg will allow its stadium, which seats 68,000, to be filled to 50% capacity. Roughly 40,000 were in Wembley for England's match Tuesday against Germany, making that the largest crowd in Britain since the pandemic began. Wimbledon is taking place concurrently with 50% capacity on the grounds. Attendance will be allowed to increase as play continues, with 15,000 (full capacity) on Centre Court for the finals July 10 and 11.

Previous matches in Munich's Allianz Arena were played before only 14,500 fans, all of whom were required to wear masks, observe social distancing and show proof of a negative coronavirus test.

UEFA, in a statement to Reuters, said it left it up to local officials to determine guidelines at every venue during June games. "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," it said.

On Wednesday, Scottish officials linked nearly 2,000 cases to people who had traveled to London for Scotland's June 18 game against England, although it is difficult to pinpoint where people had become infected and few of the record 3,887 cases reported Wednesday concerned people with symptoms. Scotland had been allocated 2,600 tickets for the Wembley match because of coronavirus restrictions, with 1,294 traveling to London and 397 going to the game.

Hans Kluge, regional director of the World Health Organization's European region, noted Thursday that the rapid spread of the more contagious delta variant was partly attributable to summer travel and relaxing of social distancing. "This is taking place in the context of a rapidly evolving situation," Kluge said. "And in a region where, despite tremendous efforts by member states, millions remain unvaccinated."

In Friday's quarterfinals, Switzerland plays Spain in St. Petersburg and Belgium plays Italy in Munich. On Saturday, the Czech Republic plays Denmark in Baku and Ukraine and England play in Rome.

Published : July 02, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Cindy Boren