What if Wembley Stadium, which hosts the final of the European Football Championship between England and Italy on Sunday evening, becomes a new source of infection with Covid-19 and more particularly its variant Delta, from ‘India? This assumption is far from absurd. It had already been put forward by the president of the Italian council Mario Draghi: on June 21, even before the Azzurri played their round of 16 against Austria, he declared himself “In favor of the final not taking place in a country where the risk of infection is very high”. That day, England had announced 10,633 new positive cases, well ahead of the 495 new Italian cases.
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At his side during this press conference given in Berlin, his host Chancellor Angela Merkel had remained silent. On July 2, during a visit to London to her counterpart Boris Johnson, she had, however, declared herself “Worried and skeptical” following the UK government’s decision to increase Wembley’s hosting capacity for the semi-finals and the final of the competition.
While 22,500 spectators were initially expected in the north London stadium, under pressure from UEFA, the British authorities had initially declared to open it to 45,000 spectators for the last matches of the event, before to finally agree to fill it to 75% of its capacity, ie 60,000 spectators.
A sharp rise in the number of contaminations
In the meantime, the number of positive cases has jumped. The 10,633 new cases as of June 21 have grown into 33,108 new cases as of July 5, the most recent date in terms of credible statistics. Above all, according to a study carried out between June 24 and July 5 among 47,000 volunteers and published Thursday by Imperial College, at the forefront of the issue of the coronavirus, “Men were 30% more affected by the virus than women, which could reflect a different social mixing pattern between men and women”. As stated by its senior editor, Professor Steven Riley, “It could be that the desire of men to watch football together has led them to be more social than usual”.
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Beyond Wembley Stadium alone, the crowded pubs and parties organized this Sunday evening to support the men of Gareth Southgate, the coach of the Three Lions, could jump the number of coronavirus cases in England. Especially since the Imperial College study indicates that the unvaccinated, that is to say a large part of young people and all minors, are three times more likely to catch the virus than the vaccinated .
Hospitalizations contained thanks to vaccination
The study, however, tempers the fears of the most pessimistic. The massive vaccination rate in the UK, where 34 million people, or 65% of adults, have received two doses of the vaccine, has partially decorrelated the number of new cases from the number of hospitalizations and deaths. On December 15, the UK had recorded a number of positive cases similar to July 5. On the same day, 1,957 Britons had been hospitalized and 459 had died, while on July 5, “only” 509 hospitalizations and 23 deaths were recorded.
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The limitation of the disastrous consequences compared to this winter explains the decision of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to completely end the confinement on July 19. Earlier this week, he announced that wearing a mask and keeping a one-meter gap will no longer be mandatory. His new health minister Sajid Javid said that “We must learn to live with the Covid” and that if the number of cases could reach 100,000 in August, the British would not suffer as much as before.