Euro football games linked to 2000 Scottish Covid cases

Two-thirds of Euro-tagged cases from June 11-28 involved Scotland fans who travelled to London for clash against England.

Euro football games linked to 2000 Scottish Covid cases SNS Group
Thousands of Scotland fans travelled to London for Euro 2020 clash against England.

Almost 2000 Scottish Covid cases have been linked to football fans watching Euro 2020 matches, according to Public Health Scotland (PHS) data.

New figures show 1991 Scottish residents who later had a laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis were in their transmission period while at competition gatherings between June 11 and 28.

Nearly two-thirds of Euro-tagged cases – or 1294 people – reported travelling to London for Scotland’s Auld Enemy clash with England, including 397 fans who attended the match at Wembley.

The stadium only had 25% capacity and the Tartan Army were not able to access the traditional Trafalgar Square meeting place as it had been reserved as a fan zone for key workers.

But thousands of Scotland fans travelled regardless despite warnings they should not go unless they had a match ticket or a safe place to watch the game.

The PHS analysis also revealed that nearly three quarters, or 1470 cases, associated with watching Euro 2020 matches involved people aged between 20 and 39-years-old.

Nine out of every ten cases were male.

Cases were tagged if fans attended either a Euro 2020 organised event, such as a match at Hampden or Wembley, the fanzone at Glasgow Green, or an informal gathering, such as a pub or house party, to watch a match.

Attendance at hospitality venues was the most frequently reported tag, representing 34% of all tags.

A relatively small number of cases in Scotland reported attending the fan zone (55 tags) and the two home matches at Hampden against Croatia (38 tags) and Czech Republic (37 tags).

The PHS report said: “PHS is working with Test and Protect and NHS boards to ensure that all public health actions are taken in the close contacts of these Euro 2020 cases as part of the 32,539 cases that were reported to the Test and Protect case management system during this period.”

Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Annie Wells MSP, said the figures were “concerning”.

She said: “While it was understandable fans were keen to enjoy the first appearance of a Scotland men’s team at a major tournament in over two decades, it is clear that greater precautions could have been taken. 

“The wider public will be angry that those who ultimately broke many restrictions by travelling down south could mean our progress in fighting the virus is hampered. 

“However, there was a failure from the First Minister and other SNP Ministers to deliver clear and consistent messaging over the public health risks associated with travelling to watch football. 

“They are now trying to spin a positive picture that they were on top of this situation which simply wasn’t the case. It is critical that SNP ministers ensure that every resource is given to Test and Protect to stop any further spread of the virus and give us the best chance of easing restrictions in the coming weeks.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked on Tuesday about fans who travelled to London to watch Scotland play in the Euro 2020 tournament, and whether the Government had taken a “softly, softly” approach to this.

She said: “We haven’t taken a softly, softly approach.

“We were very explicit in saying to fans who didn’t have tickets for Wembley not to travel.”

The First Minister was also asked about why cases had spread so rapidly in Scottish cities compared to other parts of the UK.

She said that in previous waves of the virus, Scotland had been “behind and below” the curve but it was now “slightly ahead and above”.

Aside from temporary events like football matches, this is partly down to lower levels of antibodies in the Scottish population due to lower cases earlier in the pandemic, she said.