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Staging Euro all across continent is ‘a blessing’, says UEFA medical advisor

Lausanne (AFP) – The man appointed as medical advisor by UEFA for preparations for the delayed European Championship believes the controversial decision to stage the tournament in 12 cities spread all across the continent can be “a blessing”.

“It is very difficult, but it is also a blessing,” Daniel Koch said in an interview with AFP about plans for the tournament as this week marks 100 days until the opening game, scheduled to be played in Rome on June 11.

“On the one hand we have to discuss things with every country, with every city too, because it will be the governments who decide what will be possible or not.

“There will probably be differences from one place to the next. But that is not only a problem.

“If we can no longer do anything in one country, there will still be 11 others where preparations are already under way, whereas if everything was in one country and you couldn’t do anything there, then it would all be lost.

“Having discussions with several governments also means we can compare the different approaches.”

Koch was appointed by European football’s governing body in January, taking up the role of medical advisor for the Euro on all matters related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced UEFA to postpone the competition last year.

He was previously Switzerland’s “Mr. Covid”, working as the head of communicable diseases at the country’s Federal Office of Public Health.

The Euro is due to take place from June 11 to July 11, with London, Glasgow, Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Saint-Petersburg, Bilbao, Munich, Budapest, Baku, Rome and Bucharest all set to host matches.

London is due to be the venue for seven matches, including both semi-finals and the final.

– No second postponement –

There has been much speculation about UEFA changing its plans and hosting the tournament in just one country, or perhaps a limited number of countries.

However the body’s official line is that it is sticking to its original plan and has given all host cities until early April to say if they will be in a position to accommodate spectators inside stadiums and at what percentage of capacity.

In any case Koch is confident that this time the 24-team tournament will go ahead after last year’s unprecedented postponement.

“There is no such thing as a 100 percent guarantee because there are always surprises in store in a pandemic, but for the moment I am very confident these events will go ahead,” he said, also making reference to the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

“There would need to be big changes for it not to be possible.

“We are not going to completely get rid of the virus, but we have the experience of last year and we have new assets, like lots more tests, different kinds, and faster ones like the saliva test.

“Vaccination campaigns are picking up pace and, naturally, more people have immunity because they have already had the virus.”

As for the thorny issue of fans being able to attend matches, Koch is hopeful a solution can be found.

“For supporters we will make decisions by April,” he said. “But to be able to go to events, and not just sporting events, is a legitimate necessity. That is why we are looking for ways to do it without taking any irresponsible risks.”

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