How can we allow this Euro 2020 Fans Zone when times are so tough for many?

I don’t know about you but I’m having a hard time keeping up with where we are on the route out of lockdown. I’m having an even harder time understanding the rationale behind some things being relaxed, and some things being kept under tight restriction.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 4:55 am
Building of the Glasgow Green Fan Zone for the Euro 2020 football tournament gets underway but concern surrounds the daily mass gathering of around 6,000 fans without the need for a Covid-19 test. PIC: John Devlin.

I’m having an even harder time understanding the rationale behind some things being relaxed, and some things being kept under tight restriction.

For me this confusion began with Scotland’s pause at level 2. Before the arrival of the Delta variant, much of mainland Scotland would have entered level 1 on Monday. But alarming spikes in Delta cases led to a halt at the current level of restrictions for much of the country. The question that immediately started pinging into my email inbox was “What does that actually mean?” I confess, I had to go and look it up.

It seems that the jump down from level 2 to level 1 is not all that large. There’s a small increase in the number of people from other households that you can meet on an indoor and an outdoor basis respectively; you can increase the numbers at a wedding or a funeral from 50 to 100; Soft play centres and fun fairs can re-open and congregations can recommence communal singing in places of worship. So, not that big a difference, unless you depend on one of those industries for your livelihood, or if you were planning the happiest day of your life and now have to send half your guests packing.

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It also begs the question, when oh when can we allow respite care for adults with learning difficulties to recommence? Vulnerable people and their families have been struggling without these vital support services since early 2020. It would be hard to find a greater residual impact on quality of life caused by Covid.

These are tough times, and they command exceptionally tough decisions, so I wouldn’t for a minute suggest that the pause at level 2 is wrong. What confuses me is what’s about to happen in Glasgow.

Our nation’s biggest city entered a two-week circuit breaker lockdown in October which has been extended and extended until it was finally moved to level 2 this week. Yet this weekend, a Fans Zone will open on Glasgow Green, to admit 6,000 different football fans every single day for the month-long European Championship.

At the time of writing, there is no plan to verify the Covid status of these fans and with booze on the menu and fine weather on the horizon, the whole enterprise could rapidly descend into a human-covid soup that we may all be paying for, for the rest of the summer. That requires an urgent political intervention to ensure that each attendee is given a lateral-flow test, and their Covid negative status confirmed, before admission. It’s a strategy that has worked successfully in sporting events in England, so why not here?

I’m already getting emails from those whose activity is still forbidden, be they soft play owners, church singers or those in need of adult respite services, asking in baffled amazement how the country can be planning a month-long celebration of football while they still have to wait? It’s a hard one to respond to, and I’m not entirely sure that the answer to that is based in science.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is the Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western.