Cabinet minister Kwasi Quarteng said they were “not completely relaxed” about the thousands of foreign fans and UEFA officials entering the UK for the remaining matches of Euro 2020 at Wembley.
Asked on LBC whether he was happy that about 10,000 VIPs and fans from other countries are attending the finals later this month, the business secretary said: “I’m not completely relaxed. None of the decisions are easy.”
Concerns have been expressed over plans to give 2,500 UEFA officials and tournament sponsors a special exemption from UK standard travel rules for COVID-19.
Asked about the exemption, Mr. Quarteng replied, “What do we do? Do we give up on the tournament or do we let it happen? We made it possible. UEFA pleaded for people to come.
Germany’s home secretary said “absolutely irresponsible” that UEFA would allow more than 40,000 fans to enter Wembley Stadium to watch England’s game against Germany on Tuesday.
Horst Seehofer, who is also responsible for the sport, said the decision was motivated by money urging that “business should not oversee the protection of the population against infection”.
UEFA sources last week refused to move Wembley matches if a deal could not be reached on VIPs and overseas fans, suggesting Budapest as a possible option.
Wembley will host 60,000 fans for the semi-finals and final, the government confirmed last week. The new levels mean the stadium will hold 75% of its capacity for these final three games.
Foreign fans coming to the UK for Euro matches will not be exempted from the country’s quarantine rules.
All fans will be allowed into Wembley only if they can prove that they have received two doses of the COVID vaccine or have recently tested negative.
Mr Quarteng said plans to increase Wembley’s capacity would “absolutely” continue – despite the recent outbreak of Covid among Scottish fans. About 400 Scots who were at Wembley earlier this month tested positive for the virus.
“The key to dealing with the coronavirus is vaccination,” the minister told Sky News. “This is what gives us the protection we need to fight this dreadful virus. “
Mr Quarteng also defended new travel rules allowing top business leaders to avoid a 10-day quarantine upon arrival in the UK, saying he was in competition with French President Emmanuel Macron.
“People all over the world are fighting over investments,” he told LBC. “I was reading stories two weeks ago about President Macron inviting a large number of people to Paris to invest in the French economy.”
“You are not telling me, as business secretary, that as long as President Macron attracts huge investments and creates jobs in France, I should sit quietly … Britain has to compete.”
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