Snippets from UK: Gripped by Football Fever, Britain Drops the Ball on Covid

Packed Wembley leaves goal open for virus: England may have lost out in Wembley in more ways than one. Well before the game ended, the stadium turned into a massive loss by way of social distancing. Fans had begun to gather since morning for a game that was to begin 12 hours later. By the evening, the crowd was so thick outside the stadium that walking through was a challenge. Most had no tickets, they were there to be close to history, and to party later. The tens of thousands came in mass concentration that may have outdone anything in the Kumbh Mela or at an election rally in India. This came when cases have been rising rapidly. The crowds may well add hugely to that rise.

Leaky situation: Most certainly the England fans at Wembley more than outdid any mass Indian gathering at Kumbh Mela or an election rally in turning the space all around Wembley into an open-air toilet. Thousands of fans gathered around the stadium had been chain-drinking beer all day. That had to go somewhere. And it didn’t go the way of a few outdoor toilets that had been set up. A queue of even two or three seemed forbidding and perhaps indicative of too long a wait. So every wall and streetside served the purpose. This was in full view of the police, who would normally pounce on any such activity. But in strength, as they were, they were too few to contemplate stopping the ways of the fans, and then their beer.

Pasta la vista: It was perhaps not out of the kind of spirit expected of England fans that they should have made nasty noises about Italians, with some rude suggestions on where pasta could possibly be stored. But the fans seemed to have had no hesitations about some pasta for themselves. It proved rather popular at two Italian restaurants across from the stadium that served the fans pasta quite busily through the day.

Grin and beer it: An event like this football final with England playing will long be remembered by everyone who was there, if not in the happiest way except for the small smattering of Italian fans carefully kept away from English fans. The happiest among all were the Gujarati shopkeepers dotted all around Wembley, and so therefore along the approach and the exit routes of the fans. They had clearly stocked up on their beer and their snacks to go with it. Queues formed outside every one of these stores all day. Whoever won or lost in the stadium, this was a day for their little win.

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The Covishield conundrum: The UK decision to end the need for quarantine to double vaccinated people returning from Britain’s amber list countries now ought to trigger a step to move India from red to amber. Most of the vaccinated in India have had Covishield, as have a lot in Britain who have received five million doses of it, even if they don’t call it Covishield. If those with a double shot of this in Britain can travel in without the need for quarantine, so could Indians who have had a double shot of the same vaccine. That logic has not led to a policy shift yet, the hangover of the Delta as the ‘Indian’ variant is still fresh.

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