Public health experts are urging UEFA to make sense and not allow thousands of fans to travel across Europe to attend the Champions League final in Istanbul, where covid matters are sky high.
UEFA has confirmed that supporters will be able to attend the final at the Ataturk Stadium in Turkey.
With Chelsea and Manchester City well-placed to move up to the showpiece on May 29, English fans would head off on a 4,000-mile round trip to a country with one of the best highest average daily infection rates in Europe.
This year’s Champions League final will be held in the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul
Chelsea earned a 1-1 draw against Spanish giants Real Madrid on Tuesday and Manchester City won 2-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain last night.
Bookmakers now see an all English final as the most likely outcome.
While Turkey is not on the government’s ‘red list’ – countries from which travel to the UK is prohibited – the number of daily cases of Covid in Turkey is currently 16 times higher than in the UK, prompting experts to say it game to England ‘.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has ordered a ‘complete shutdown’ of the country from today, which will last until May 17, in an effort to reduce infection levels, with schools closed and travel restrictions. But there is still an exemption for international tourists as the countries try to retain a vital source of income.
“It’s crazy and unnecessary to have the game in Turkey,” said Professor Keith Neal, a public health expert at the University of Nottingham.
Chelsea and Manchester City face bookies to reach the Champions League final
Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final last year, but without fans
‘I think there will be serious problems. Turkey is a Covid hot zone and it is likely to remain so in May. You cannot tell that it is better in five weeks.
UEFA and Polish authorities are finalizing plans to allow 10,000 fans to attend the Europa League final in Gdansk next month.
Sportsmail revealed yesterday that the showpiece, which will take place at the 41,000-seat Gdansk Stadium on May 26, is now expected to be played in a quarter-full stadium with an announcement to follow on Friday.
It increases the prospect of Manchester United and Arsenal playing a European final for supporters, provided both teams can get through difficult semi-finals.
Experts approached by Sportsmail are less concerned about the health risks of playing in Poland for fans, compared to Turkey.
Poland has less than half the number of new Covid infections per day compared to Turkey, at 252 per million people. This is a comparable number to Spain. Poland also delivered a first dose of covid vaccine to 21 percent of the population, Spain administered one dose to 23%, compared to 16% in Turkey.
And the disease rate in Istanbul itself, like all major population centers, will be higher. UEFA has not realized they have a problem.
‘People travel in crowded planes, pass busy airports and spend time in bars and restaurants. It’s too risky.
‘I would move the game. Move it to England where you can manage it better. You could move it to England for the two English teams. ‘
On Tuesday, there were 552 new confirmed cases of covid per million people in Turkey, compared to just 35 in the UK.
During the latest wave of cases, at its peak in April, there were more than 60,000 new cases per day and more than 300 deaths.
Meanwhile, the vaccination program is lagging behind most other European countries: only 16% of the population receives at least one dose of vaccine, compared to nearly half of the UK residents.
Despite the high contagion rate, Turkey is desperate to preserve tourism and has granted an exemption from the restrictions to all foreign visitors during the current lockdown, Turkey said. local reports.
Last year, Turkey saw a 70% drop in foreign visitors.
There are currently flights between the UK and Turkey. All passengers six years of age and older must present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure. And there is currently no requirement to isolate oneself once in Turkey.
The Ataturk Stadium, which was to host the final last year before the final stages of the Blue Riband competition moved to Spain, can accommodate 76,000 fans.
While the number of tickets available has not been confirmed, UEFA reportedly told clubs in the quarter-final that 9,000 fans were expected to attend the final.
UEFA told The athletic: ‘The Champions League final will take place on May 29 in Istanbul with a limited number of spectators and we are sure that the temporary lockdown in effect until May 17 will not have any impact on the match.
UEFA will continue to work closely with the Turkish Football Association and local and national authorities to organize the match safely.
“More information on match capacity and ticket sales details will be communicated shortly.”
However, it is not the management of fans in the stadium that is of concern.
UEFA would trust fans to attend the Champions League final
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin paved the way for fans to attend the Champions League final
“It’s not about the stadium, it’s about the journey and what people do when they get there,” said Professor Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Norwich University.
‘It brings a lot of people together, there may be too much alcohol.
‘I don’t think it’s a wise thing to do. From a public health point of view, this is not a good idea at the moment.
Professor Keith Neal says it is ‘crazy’ that fans are traveling to Turkey for the Champions League final
‘Worldwide there are more infections than ever and there may be new variants in the area.
So from a global perspective, holding major international events where people are unlikely to adhere to the guidelines because they are abroad and there will likely be a lot of alcohol around doesn’t seem like a good idea.
‘I wouldn’t consider it a meaningful risk. Even though the cases are falling back, it will still be quite high. There’s no way Turkey could get it anywhere near the UK by then. ‘
The rapid nature of the pandemic is of additional concern to Professor Hunter. The rise of the potentially more contagious Indian variety in the UK, if it catches on, could pose a risk to Turkey if fans travel with it, he said.
UEFA president Aleksander Cerefin paved the way for fans to attend the Champions League final at an executive committee meeting in March.
The European governing body has lifted the limitation on the number of fans who can attend matches and will lift a ban on traveling fans in May. The 30 percent stadium capacity limit was introduced in October in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, it is now up to host governments to determine whether visiting fans are allowed to attend matches and how many are allowed to travel. However, this is based on discussions between the administration and the local authorities.
Last year’s Champions League final was played in front of empty stands.
Turkey’s lockdown will come to an end on May 17, which is also the earliest date that UK residents are allowed to travel abroad, according to the government’s roadmap to get out of lockdown.
Countries are preparing to allow fans across Europe to attend Euro 2020 matches in June
OPPORTUNITIES FOR A FULLY ENGLISH FINAL
Bookmakers have made an all-English Champions League final look after Chelsea earned a creditable draw at Real Madrid and Manchester City won the semi-final at Paris Saint-Germain.
All-English final: 8/11
The bookies are also looking forward to an all-England affair in the Europa League, including final, which will be played in Gdansk on May 26. Tonight, Manchester United will take on Roma and Arsenal are off to Villareal in the semi-finals.
All-English Europa League Final: 11/10
Both finals are fully English: 11/4
Currently, all overseas holidays are prohibited for UK residents.
Yesterday, however, Grant Shapps spoke positively of relaxing travel restrictions in May with the development of the NHS app, which would act as a covid passport to show that a person has been vaccinated against the virus, has immunity or has a negative test .
But his comments on Sky News left many unanswered questions about when the app will be ready and what the quarantine requirements will be when people return home.
Even if travel restrictions are relaxed after May 17 and the app is ready, the feasibility of traveling to Turkey for fans may depend on the UK government’s traffic light system.
Where people return from red or amber countries, they can quarantine for 10 days.
According to plans, countries will be given a color, red, amber or green, which will determine quarantine requirements upon return to the UK.
Mr Shapps told Sky News, “I have to say that the data so far continues to look good from a UK perspective, despite concerns about where people are traveling and to ensure that we are protected from re-entry of the disease.”
He added that he will indicate which countries fall into the ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red’ categories under the new risk-based traffic light system ‘by early May’.
Image shows how the NHS app could work as a covid passport using immunity and testing