'Don't let Preston's Euro 2020 Fan Zone become a super-spreader event', urges public health boss

Football fans attending big-screen showings of England games in the delayed Euro 2020 championships at Preston’s Flag Market later this month are being urged by Lancashire’s director of public health to take a Covid test before they arrive.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 6:51 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th June 2021, 12:40 am

The first two of the trio of ticket-only events to watch the team’s group games at a specially-created “Fan Zone” have already sold out.

Each of the Croatia and Scotland matches on 13th and 18th June will see more than 500 fans seated, socially distanced, at tables – where they will be served their drinks – in order to comply with Covid restrictions that will not, at that point, have been completely lifted. Outdoor gatherings - acknowledged as being safer than indoor mixing - are currently limited to 30 people, but events such as the Fan Zone, with the necessary protocols in place, can run at 50 percent of capacity up to 4,000 people.

If the government’s roadmap out of lockdown proceeds as planned, all legal restrictions on social contact will be removed on 21st June, paving the way for football-lovers to stand on the Flag Market to watch England’s final Group D game against the Czech Republic 24 hours later.

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England fans are set to gather on the Flag Market - but will be socially distanced for at least the first two screenings of the team's group games (pictured: Mike Pixton, centre, with Serena Baxter, Paul Harrison, Paul Butcher and Richard Fontana)

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Preston’s BID, which is staging the over-18s only event in association with Winckley Square Hotel and Number 10 Hotel in the city, says that public safety has been paramount in determining how it has been organised.

However, against the backdrop of rising Covid cases across Lancashire, including Preston – where they trebled in the fortnight to 29th May – county public health boss Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi says it is up to those attending The Fan Zone to ensure that the occasions do not lead to any further spread of Covid in the city and beyond.

“We are encouraging everybody to take a test before they come. These are the type of things that really give me concern – large events which involve close contact, even though it’s outdoors.

“Given the highly transmissible [Indian or Delta] variant, these are potential super-spreader events. People need to do their part to avoid them becoming a super-spreader event by regular testing and staying at home if they’re not feeling well,” Dr. Karunanithi appealed.

Rapid-result lateral flow tests are available to be collected at various sites across Lancashire including a range of pharmacies and, in Preston, at the Guild Hall.

Preston’s BID has previously revealed that tickets have been sold to people from across Lancashire, the wider North West and even as far away as Brighton.

However, the organisation’s chair, John Boydell, stresses the safety considerations that have gone into the plans and the measures that will be taken.

“This series of events have been planned and organised in line with the official position determined by the government.

“A detailed event management plan has been presented to the authorities, outlining the compliance measures we have put in place. The Fan Zone events, operating in an outdoor controlled environment, were discussed at a task-force meeting with representatives from the local authorities, Public Health England, the NHS, and the police, and no issues were raised with the organisers.

“Capacity for the events has been intentionally limited for patron safety, despite huge interest. Prior to the potential relaxation of the rules on 21st June, events on 13th and 18th June are socially distanced and seated. Guests have been asked to wear a face covering when entering and leaving the site, have their temperature checked upon entry, and ‘check in’ using the government track and trace system.

“A guiding principle of the Fan Zone planning is, and has been from the outset, public safety. Should the government guidance on socially distanced, limited capacity outdoor events change, or indeed any other safety measures be introduced by the government, we will adapt our plans accordingly.

“Safely managed events, complying with up to date government requirements, are really important in helping the city to recover and in providing a responsible sense of enjoyment for people in what has been a very tough year,” Mr. Boydell added.

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