British authorities warned against large gatherings ahead of the European Football Championship 2020 final on Sunday, fearing the type of fast-spreading viral delta that has led to a worldwide outbreak.
Many countries have had to reimpose restrictions while fighting outbreaks accelerated by the variant – which was first detected in India – while also trying to ramp up vaccinations to allow their economies to reopen.
London hosts, Sunday, more than 60,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, in the Euro 2020 final, which has been postponed due to the virus, the largest crowd in a British football stadium since the beginning of the epidemic, as England faces Italy.
Authorities are particularly concerned about the dangers of large gatherings in fan zones and pubs across England to watch the country’s first appearance in a major football final in more than half a century.
“London continues to have a public health crisis,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lawrence Taylor, said Saturday, urging people to stay socially distancing.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated he intends to ease all remaining restrictions in England on July 19, but infection rates are rising again across Britain – spurred by the delta formula.
His government has argued that with more than 85 percent of adults receiving at least one injection, the link between infection, hospitalization and mortality has been broken.
But many scientists are deeply uncomfortable with easing all remaining rules, including social distancing and legal requirements for the wearing of masks on public transportation and indoors.
As England’s players left their base at St George’s Park on Saturday, a large group of jubilant fans lined the road, none of them seen wearing masks in videos and photos tweeted by the team.
Health experts have expressed concerns that Euro 2020 events could become too prevalent throughout the tournament, particularly in Britain and Russia due to the delta variable.
“It is possible, and even likely, that very few areas of the UK affected will find themselves infected by fans returning from London,” Antoine Flaholt told AFP before the final.
Authorities in Denmark, Finland and Scotland have reported injuries among fans after attending European matches.
The known global death toll of COVID-19 has crossed four million, with the battle complicated by the emergence of variables that have accelerated the outbreak even in countries that have managed to overcome the early stages of the epidemic.
Australia, where restrictions in a number of cities were recently reimposed, on Sunday announced the first virus-related death in the Sydney outbreak.
It came as authorities warned that the situation in Sydney was expected to deteriorate, as Australia’s largest city entered its third week of lockdown and its residents were largely unvaccinated.
“Tomorrow and the next few days will be much, much worse, much worse than what we have seen today,” said Gladys Berejiklian, premier of the state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital.
South Korea, which has been seen as a model for responding to COVID-19, was set to tighten restrictions from Monday in and around the capital, Seoul, after daily new infections reached their highest level since the start of the epidemic.
The Asia Pacific region has seen a spike in cases in a number of countries, with Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam imposing new restrictions as a result.
The rapid spread of the delta variant across Asia, Africa and Latin America is revealing a severe shortage of vaccine supplies for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.
It is also a major obstacle for economies hoping to get back on track after the pandemic has hit them.
“We are very concerned about the delta variable and other variables that could emerge and threaten the recovery,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday after a G20 meeting in Venice, Italy.
“We are a connected global economy, what happens in any part of the world affects all other countries.”
The less fortunate parts of the world are expected to suffer this economic blow the most.
That impact has been in focus in Guatemala’s home town of San Martin Jilotepec, where shops are closed and streets deserted as some 90,000 people are booked from Thursday to Sunday to curb the spread of the virus.
For the townspeople, the short curbs didn’t come without a cost.
Resident Bartolome Chocoj said: “We have payments to pay, to rent and to support the children.
“If we’re not going to die from COVID, we’re going to die of starvation.”
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