'Devastating': WHO Covid official hits out after seeing Wembley's Euro 2020 crowd

12 July 2021, 21:21 | Updated: 13 July 2021, 00:19

A senior WHO official was upset at how many people were allowed in Wembley
A senior WHO official was upset at how many people were allowed in Wembley. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Footage of the Euro 2020 final crowd at Wembley was "devastating", according to a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official.

Maria Van Kerkhove asked if she was "supposed to be enjoying watching transmission" of coronavirus as more than 60,000 spectators saw Italy beat England on penalties.

Wembley was cleared to hold bigger crowds for the latter stages of the tournament, with the stadium hosting a number of games throughout Euro 2020, including the semi final and the final.

While many have remarked on their delight at seeing large crowds - and a hint of normality - at football stadiums, Ms Van Kerkhove, the WHO's COVID-19 Technical Lead, was concerned.

Entry requirements at Wembley needed spectators to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test, while face coverings had to be warn unless seated.

Legal limits to crowd capacities are due to end from July 19 in England, meaning scenes like Wembley on Sunday could be seen throughout the country when the football season starts.

Read more: Southgate: It feels like my stomach has been ripped out after Italy defeat

Read more: Boris Johnson confirms July 19 reopening but warns things won't go straight back to normal

Ministers accept that cases will rise, with warnings the country could soon see 50,000 a day, but they believe vaccines have weakened the link between rising cases and large numbers of Covid-related deaths.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly spoken of his desire that lockdown should not need to be reimposed but, while legal requirements for social distancing and mask wearing are to end, he recommended some situations where measures should stay.

Confirming that Step Four of England's release from lockdown will go ahead next week, Mr Johnson suggested wearing face coverings "in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don't usually meet, such as on public transport".

He also recommended a phased return to the office from home working, warning that "we cannot simply revert instantly... to life as it was before Covid", adding: "This pandemic is not over, this disease, coronavirus, continues to carry risk for you and your family, we cannot simply revert instantly from Monday 19th July to life as it was before Covid."