The Euro 2020 soccer tournament was blamed for a surge in coronavirus cases as fans have flocked to stadiums, bars and spectator zones across Europe to watch the action while the pandemic still raged. This is reported by Reuters.
Germany's interior minister called European soccer's governing body UEFA "utterly irresponsible" for allowing big crowds at the tournament.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the mixing of crowds in Euro 2020 host cities, travel and easing of social restrictions had driven up the number of new cases rose by 10%.
A 10-week decline in new infections across Europe had come to an end and a new wave is inevitable if football fans and others drop their guard, WHO senior emergency officer Catherine Smallwood said in Copenhagen.
"We need to look much beyond just the stadiums themselves," Smallwood told reporters. "We need to look at how people get there, are they travelling in large crowded convoys of buses? And when they leave the stadiums, are they going into crowded bars and pubs to watch the matches? These events were driving the spread of the virus," she said.
With COVID-19 restrictions varying from nation to nation, crowd sizes have ranged from completely full, such as 60,000 in Budapest, to 25-45 percent capacity in other venues where there have often been around 10-15,000 spectators.
UEFA said it was fully aligned with local health authorities' guidelines at every venue.
"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 in a statement.
But German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said UEFA's position was "utterly irresponsible".
"I cannot explain why UEFA is not being sensible...I suspect it is due to commercialism," he told a news conference.
Seehofer said a match with 60,000 spectators - such as Hungary's Puskas Arena and also planned for the semi-finals and final at London's Wembley stadium - would inevitably promote the spread of COVID-19.