Holding sporting events that attract large crowds in countries affected by the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is unrealistic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said this week.
In such circumstances, allowing the holding of matches to be attended by tens of thousands of people could be “disastrous,” WHO Health Emergencies Director Michael Ryan said on Wednesday.
Asked, at a discussion broadcast live on social media by the WHO, about a possible date for the resumption of major sporting events, the Irish epidemiologist said that was impossible to predict.
With large crowds of 40,000 to 60,000 people, the risk of being infected exists not only in the stands, but also when going to the stadium in public transport, and in bars and clubs, he explained.
He stressed that it could be disastrous to take the current problems with health risks in bars, then condense them into five or six hours in which thousands of people take the same public transport to an area, then become involved in a match, and all the ensuing social aspects.
Thinking that such big matches can be held this year in countries with local COVID-19 transmission, “is very unrealistic,” he added.
The Tokyo Olympics and European Championship have been shifted from this year to 2021, while the norm this year is matches behind closed doors in major championships such as the Champions League and English Premier League.
Ryan said that it could perhaps be possible to shift from closed-door fixtures to matches watched by 1,000 to 2,000 persons as things start reopening. Everyone wants sports to return, but the situation still needs to be monitored a little more, he cautioned.