Champions League final ‘didn’t go perfectly’, Portugal PM admits

Antonio Costa acknowledges criticism amid public outcry over gov’t’s failure to enforce measures to contain COVID.

Chelsea supporters celebrate a goal as they watch the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea in a fan zone in Porto [Patricia de Mello Moreira/AFP]

Portugal’s prime minister has said his government must do better after coming under fire over its failure to enforce measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus during the Champions League final.

Thousands of English supporters flocked to the coastal city of Porto in the days leading to Saturday’s match between Manchester City and Chelsea.

Images posted on social media showed large crowds of people gathered outside restaurants and cafes without masks or social distancing.

“Every day, unfortunately, there are people who do not respect the rules, but that doesn’t mean the rules are illegitimate,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters on Monday, admitting the event “didn’t go perfectly”.

“It is clear that what happened this weekend cannot serve as an example, it must serve as a lesson,” Costa said, adding authorities must work to provide more information to tourists about measures they must adopt during their holidays.

Separately Portugal’s Health Minister Marta Temido said: “I am sure that right now all Portuguese know that there is a set of rules that we have to continue to follow and others not complying with those rules should not be an alibi.”

Earlier, the government came under fire from some legislators for sending contradictory COVID-19 messages ahead of the match, in which Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0.

“The government and Porto’s mayor should apologise to the Portuguese, who, deprived of so much, are watching this disgrace in the midst of fighting the pandemic,” opposition leader Rui Rio wrote on Twitter.

However, precautions were taken which meant all fans had to present a negative COVID-19 test on arrival in Portugal, which is on the British government’s “green” list allowing tourists to visit without quarantining on their return.

Absolutely contradictory

Portugal suffered a devastating COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year and masks are still mandatory outdoors if people cannot observe social distancing. Drinking in public places outside of licensed terraces remains banned.

Some 16,500 fans were allowed into the Dragao stadium, upsetting locals who have been banned from attending matches for months. Many other English fans travelled to the city to support their teams from the sidelines.

Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos, leader of Portugal’s right-wing CDS party, also criticised the government, saying it “adopted an absolutely contradictory and inconsistent approach”.

“The way the Champions League final was organised gave a bad image of Portugal and will have unpredictable consequences on public health,” he added.

Last week, a police source told Reuters news agency authorities did not have enough time to fully prepare for the final as UEFA only announced it would move the event to Porto from Istanbul around two weeks ago.

Portuguese authorities decided to relax COVID-19 rules for the match last week, no longer requiring fans to stay in “bubbles” and lifting restrictions on movement.

“It is not understandable to allow an event (to take place) that is not allowed to the majority of the citizens of this country,” said Left Bloc leader Catarina Martins.

Some health experts fear the Portuguese will be less willing to adopt coronavirus preventive measures.

Portugal’s northern region health authority on Sunday asked all those who got close to any Champions League celebrations to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and reduce contact with others over the next 14 days.

Source: News Agencies