Netherlands match ‘pilot’ for post-Covid spectator events
Gibraltar football fans could be allowed to watch the international match against the Netherlands next month if they can “prove immunity,” the Director of Public Health tweeted on Wednesday.
But hours later, the Gibraltar Government issued a press statement detailing that UEFA’s permission is needed and infection control measures would still be implemented.
In response the Gibraltar Football Association asked for patience, adding that more information on spectators would be announced in due course, following further discussions.
The Director of Public Health, Dr Sohail Bhatti, encouraged people to register for their vaccine and said the Victoria Stadium would be at half capacity.
“Want to see the Holland match in Victoria Stadium? Been working on this and thanks to Chief Minister, it’s going to happen,” Dr Bhatti tweeted.
“You will need to be able to prove immunity to Covid-19 and only half capacity, so get registered.”
The tweet was endorsed by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo who urged people to get their jab.
Locally, people who receive their second jab of a Covid-19 vaccine are issued a vaccination card as way of proof.
The Gibraltar FA has not clarified whether proof of vaccination will be needed.
It said that, subject to certain conditions, members of the general public may be able to attend Gibraltar’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier versus the Netherlands on March 30.
“The Gibraltar FA is conscious that we are slowly emerging from an extremely difficult period for our country, and that as a nation we must continue heeding the advice from Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar and our Public Health authorities,” the Gibraltar FA said.
“As such, the Gibraltar FA will continue its discussions with HM Government of Gibraltar and all relevant local authorities, as well as with UEFA, to determine the best - and safest – way to deliver access to the national stadium for our people on the 30th March.”
“We therefore ask the general public to remain patient, and to follow our social media outlets for further news on access and ticketing.”
“As and when developments occur, the Gibraltar FA will ensure fans of the national team are kept informed every step of the way.”
“Thank you for your patience and understanding – let’s continue to keep Gibraltar safe.”
The Government said the Holland match would be a “pilot” for all post-Covid local spectator events and would be held under strict controlled conditions.
It added that although the Government is determined not to lose all the hard work that the recent lockdown has achieved, but it is also important to gain confidence that big events can be held “in preparation for a more normal summer.”
“Therefore, the international football match between Gibraltar and the Netherlands is one of the first pilot events,” the Government said.
“It is a large outdoor area and therefore the risk is lower.”
“UEFA’s permission is needed, and the implementation of infection control measures will help ensure that spectators can watch this match safely.”
“This will include social distancing requirements and other aspects of the rules of hygiene being properly provided for.”
“If there is a subsequent rise in cases, it will help inform future decisions, and if there is none, we can help support more events.”
“It is anticipated that cases will have dropped to background levels and stay there. We will also be in contact with the organisers of the heavyweight boxing match about potential controlled access to their event in a Covid-secure way.”
“As the first such events, there needs to be a high level of oversight. The Director of Public Health will ensure that the protocols in place minimise the risk of transmission, and that will include ensuring, as much as practical, that spectators are Covid-free.”
Dr Bhatti called the pilot event a major step in enjoying large group, stressing that is it important that the event runs smoothly.
“As the match is a pilot event, we are not committing to anything long-term,” Dr Bhatti said.
“I want people to enjoy themselves safely. This means a test carried out on the day as well as evidence of immunity such as past Covid infection or vaccine card.”
“Due to UEFA restrictions, we are unclear about the eventual number of spectators.”
“I want to encourage younger members of our community to take up the vaccine offer, as inevitably
insurance companies and airlines will be implementing so-called ‘vaccine passports.’”
“Of course, it is entirely a personal decision whether to take the vaccine, but I am encouraging my family to do so, as we want to return to normality.”
“Millions of people have been successfully vaccinated worldwide, and I don’t want our people left behind.”
Mr Picardo said the Government is working to return Gibraltar to normality.
“That work has to be methodical and careful. We will work with the organisers of the upcoming sporting events to see how we can develop relevant protocols that might work to ensure we can see live audiences return,” he said.
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