The United Kingdom has seen a surge in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant and with Euro 2020, Formula One and cricket lined up, it is sitting on a potential biological bomb.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom. In the last 24 hours, there have been over 15,000 cases in the United Kingdom. This is the COVID-19 strain that is the most contagious. It was in India that the Delta variant emerged and now there is also the Delta plus strain. The Delta variant devastated India in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. With the strain now emerging in the United Kingdom, there is a big possibility of the country now sitting on a massive biological bomb. The reason – The amount of sporting activity in the home summer in 2021.
The United Kingdom will be hosting key knockout games for Euro 2020 in Wembley. There is also a Formula One race in Silverstone in July. International cricket against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India are all lined up from June to September. The major underlining point in the whole thing – The attendance of crowds. For the British Formula One Grand Prix, the Government has allowed crowds to attend in full capacity. The total capacity in Silverstone: 150,000
Even for Euro 2020, there has been an allowance of 60,000 to 70,000 fans in the stadium for the games. The tournament is under the scanner for several UEFA VIP officials not wanting to undergo quarantine.
When it comes to cricket, the fans and bio-bubble restrictions is better. The attendance at most stadiums is less than 50 percent. In the ICC World Test Championship final, only 3000 fans was allowed per day. The same is currently happening in the Sri Lanka series as well. But, sports have been one of the major contributions when it comes to an explosion in the coronavirus cases in a particular country.
India itself presents a case study. When cases in the country fell to below 10,000 around the period of February-March 2021, the government eased the restrictions. Cricket stadiums in Chennai and Ahmedabad allowed for 50 percent capacity for the England Tests. However, what happened afterwards was there for everyone to see.
The second wave of COVID-19 decimated India. It was a case of sheer bad luck that fans coming to cricket stadiums at 50 percent capacity also coincided with two other super-spreading events. The elections in several states and the Kumbh Mela resulted in an explosion that saw over 400,000 cases a day.
The UK is not learning even from Europe. In March 2020, when the world was just starting to know about the COVID-19 situation, there was a UEFA Champions League clash between Valencia and Atalanta. In what was termed the biggest game in Atalanta’s history, the official attendance was 45,792. A third of Bergamo’s population made the 37-mile trip from Bergamo to Milan. Out of a population of 120,000 people, more than 40,000 went to the San Siro. Before the game, traveling fans freely roamed around Milan.
Everyone knew what happened next. Italy and Spain witnessed coronavirus explosions like never before. Italy has seen over 125,000 deaths while Spain only recently opened up their lockdown. Bergamo had become the new ground zero for coronavirus explosions. Both Italy and Spain are slowly recovering from that coronavirus explosions.
Now, imagine if 140,000 fans plus 60,000 in Wembley combine and protocols are not followed. When there were 40,000 fans, the explosion was massive. Imagine 200,000 fans. The coronavirus third wave in Europe might arrive even quicker than someone anticipated.
The management of protocols will be tested with 200,000 people in attendance at events next week. If there is another coronavirus explosion in the UK, future games will be impacted. India’s five Tests might have to be played in Old Trafford and Southampton behind closed doors. Travel restrictions are already in place, with India A’s tour suspended.
Virat Kohli’s India cricket team are having a three-week break and they have planned travel to some places. But, with the surge in the Delta cases, they may have to change their plans. The initial plan was not to be in quarantine or in a bio-bubble. But, with the new surge, those plans might also change.
In July, the knockout games will be played in Wembley. If the situation goes out of control, the Euro bubble could be breached. The United Kingdom and the world will be praying that the Delta variation does not surge for the next couple of months. If it does, we will go back to square one. Sports will once again be a soft target.