The Delta variant—coupled with slow vaccine rollouts and low vaccine rates—has led to worrying new spikes. Russia logged 24,439 new cases and 679 deaths on Saturday, far more than any of the countries participating in the competition, yet thousands of fans traveled to St. Petersburg the previous day to watch one of the competition’s quarter-finals. The U.K. has had to postpone reopening curbs as the country struggles to control the surge of Delta variant cases—despite a strong vaccine rollout—but that hasn’t stopped people from scooping up tickets to the final, to be held at Wembley on July 11.
While the European soccer governing body UEFA has required that strict norms including COVID-19 tests and social distancing be followed inside the stadiums, no one seems to be keeping tabs on the rowdy crowds after they leave or in fan zones, where yelling, hugging and high-fiving go unchecked. On Saturday night in Rome, police stopped hundreds of English and Ukrainian fans out on the streets. If they couldn’t prove they had quarantined (five days for British and 10 for Ukrainaian), they were fined €3,000. “We need to look beyond the stadiums themselves,” WHO senior emergency officer Catherine Smallwood said in a statement. “We need to look at how people get there, are they traveling in large crowded convoys of buses, And when they leave the stadiums, are they going into crowded bars and pubs to watch the matches?”