Russia could offer Covid vaccine to foreign fans at Euro 2020 games in St. Petersburg – city official
Foreign football fans could have the chance to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they are allowed to attend games in St. Petersburg at the European Championships this summer, a city official has said.
The northern Russian city is one of 12 planned hosts for the pan-continental UEFA Euro 2020, which will go ahead this summer having been delayed by a year due to the pandemic.
Some host cities across Europe remain uncertain as to whether they will be able to allow fans at matches, or even host games at all.
However, St. Petersburg vice-governor Boris Piotrovsky has added to the confidence previously expressed by local organizing committee chief Alexey Sorokin that matches at the 68,000-seater Gazprom Arena will not only go ahead, but will see fans in attendance in healthy numbers.
“We’ll start an information campaign soon, but now we can already say with confidence that the European Championships will go ahead in St. Petersburg and will most likely be held with fans,” Piotrovsky said in an interview with TASS.
“We’re meeting with Rospotrebnadzor [the Russian health watchdog] and UEFA, discussing all the possible options. Sometime in the first half of April, perhaps even in the first week, we’ll come to a decision.
“We’ll see if we can immediately accommodate a large number of fans at the stadium, or perhaps we can plan for slightly less and then leave ourselves the chance to increase [the number], because there won’t be an opportunity to decrease it [after the decision].”
Euro 2020 – which is scheduled to take place between June 11 and July 11 – will see St. Petersburg host three group games and one quarterfinal. Belgium and Finland will be the nations to visit the northern Russian city in the group stage.
Local Russian Premier League club Zenit welcomed just over 22,500 fans to their last home match against Akhmat Grozny, allowing for local regulations and social-distancing measures.
Zenit have made headlines around the world after they offered fans the chance to get vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik V while attending home games.
The #SputnikV vaccination programme is well underway here at the Gazprom ArenaWe'll be offering free vaccinations to supporters at everyone of our home games for the rest of this season! pic.twitter.com/AApj784mCN— FC Zenit in English✨ (@fczenit_en) March 13, 2021
Piotrovsky spoke about the possibility of expanding that idea to make vaccines available for any foreign visitors this summer, should they be allowed to attend matches.
“We receive many requests for vaccinations from diplomatic missions and from guests who want to come to our city. Now we’re trying to work out the question of the possibility of vaccination for foreign guests,” said the official.
“We opened a vaccination station at the Gazprom Arena. We were the first to do this, and it’s in demand.
"We’ll see how the vaccinations proceed, we’ll increase the number of stations at the stadiums and will involve the Ice Palace [hockey stadium] in this as well.”Also on rt.com Plenty of needle: Russian Premier League leaders Zenit invite fans to get jabbed with Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V at home matches
Turning to the idea of fan zones, similar to those which were a popular presence at the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018, Piotrovsky said St. Petersburg would even consider additional areas for supporters this time round.
“At our last meeting with UEFA representatives, we considered the possibility of introducing an additional fan zone," he said.
"Now we’re working on it separately in order to ease the burden on the fan zones approved already. We will have a ‘fan village’ on Konyushennaya Square and a public viewing area on Palace Square.
“In terms of limiting the number of visitors to these zones, we’ll rely on the conclusions of Rospotrebnadzor.
"Considering that this is an open area, open air, they may be minimal, but in any case, there will be some restrictions – masks, distancing, hand treatment.”
Piotrovsky also asserted that the city's non-sporting infrastructure was more than ready to handle any influx of tourists.
“Hotels have long been ready to receive fans, restaurants too; in general, the city is ready to act on the basis of restrictions related to the pandemic…There are safety standards that everyone must comply with.”
UEFA has said it will make a final decision no later than April 20 on fan numbers allowed at each venue, and whether all the originally planned cities will host matches.
Speaking in February, UEFA’s medical advisor Dr Daniel Koch said: "We will see what the situation is and what is the requirement from the different countries, but I hope that at least some traveling will be possible because it is not traveling, in the end, that makes the real difference."