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Minister defends allowing visiting officials and VIP fans to attend latter stages of Euro 2020 at Wembley

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A minister has defended allowing UEFA officials and VIP fans to attend games in the latter stages of Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium.

John Whittingdale told Sky News there will be “some people coming in” for the semi-finals and final of the tournament, but they will be under “strict restrictions as to what else they can do and we have measured those things very carefully”.

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Fans are pictured in the stands at Wembley on Sunday. Pic: AP
Image: More than 60,000 fans will be able to attend the matches as part of the government’s trial of mass events. Pic: AP

“We’re talking about a very limited number of people coming in and they’re also subject to quite significant restrictions,” Mr Whittingdale said.

“They’re not just able to come in and travel around Britain. They come in to attend a match and go away again.

“We wouldn’t have been able to host the tournament at Wembley if we hadn’t allowed the players and people associated with the teams to come in to do so.”

More than 60,000 fans will be able to attend the matches as part of the government’s trial of mass events, which is moving to its next stage.

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It comes after it was reported that visiting football VIPs could be exempted from self-isolation rules to allow them to attend the matches.

According to the Times, the government is close to a compromise deal that will require UEFA and FIFA officials, politicians, sponsors and broadcasters to agree to only attend the games, in a move that would effectively place them in “bubbles”.

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Labour’s John Healey told Sky News the development was an example of there being “one rule for them and one rule for the rest”.

“We have seen this time and again from ministers,” the shadow defence secretary said.

Mr Whittingdale said the decision to increase the capacity at Wembley was based on scientific advice and the government “won’t do anything” to put at risk the gains made in the fight against coronavirus.

He said ministers were moving to the next stage of its trial of mass events “where for a number of events we will increase the capacity”.

Mr Whittingdale added: “But at every stage we’re obviously listening to the scientific advice.

“We won’t do anything that will put public health at risk.

“Even though the capacity is going up, people will still be required to demonstrate that they’ve either had two vaccinations or that they’ve had a negative COVID test.”

The World Health Organisation told Sky News on Tuesday it is “concerned about the easing of restrictions in some of the host countries”.

David Nabarro, a special envoy on COVID-19 for the World Health Organisation, said there were “real questions to be asked” about the move because of rising cases in the UK.

He went on: “But as a citizen I am also thinking that it is time for us all to work out how we are going to get on with our lives. We can’t just stop doing everything because we are scared.

“Instead we have to learn how to pick up signs this virus is picking up in an area. Then we have to know very clearly what has got to be done so we don’t end up with an explosive outbreak that kills a lot of people.”

Mr Whittingdale said the government would publish the results of its trials before step four of England’s roadmap out of restrictions, which is currently due to take place on 19 July.

“It’s a complicated exercise, it needs a lot of analysis, and obviously we want to be absolutely confident of the findings before we publish,” Mr Whittingdale said.

He continued: “I think that people will expect us to carry out a very thorough analysis, we’ve always made plain that we will publish and we will publish before we announce the next steps.”