Angela Merkel criticises Boris Johnson on live TV over number of England fans allowed into Wembley

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·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
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Watch: Merkel criticises Johnson over number of England fans allowed into Wembley

Angela Merkel has openly criticised Boris Johnson over the number of England fans being allowed into Wembley during Euro 2020.

The German chancellor, speaking at a televised joint press conference with Johnson on Friday, said attendance numbers were a "bit too much" in light of the UK's third wave of coronavirus cases.

For England’s three group stage games, Wembley’s capacity was limited to 22,500. This was increased to 40,000 for the second round Germany match on Tuesday.

Saturday’s quarter-final match against Ukraine will be played in Rome, but both semi-final games, as well as the final, will be played at Wembley in front of 60,000 fans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, before their bilateral meeting at Chequers, the country house of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Friday July 2, 2021.
Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson at Chequers ahead of the press conference on Friday. (PA)

Germany’s three group stage games in Munich, by comparison, had been limited to 13,000 and Merkel said at the Chequers press conference that she had raised her concerns about Wembley with the prime minister.

"I say this with grave concern," she told reporters. "I have also said this to the prime minister.

"We in Germany, as you know, had less people attend games in the Munich stadium but the British government will obviously take its own decision.

"But I am very much concerned whether it is not a bit too much."

England supporters celebrate their win in the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium in London on June 29, 2021. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
England supporters at Wembley on Tuesday. (Getty)

Earlier this week, it emerged 397 COVID-19 cases in Scotland were linked to fans who had attended the England game at Wembley on 18 June.

A further 897 infections were linked to ticketless supporters who travelled to London, with thousands of Scottish fans packing out landmarks such as Leicester Square.

Johnson hit back at Merkel's criticism, saying sporting events are being opened up in a "very careful and controlled manner".

He added: "The crucial point is that here in the UK we have now built up a very considerable wall of immunity by our vaccination programme.

"In the UK almost 85% have had a first dose and more than 63% have had two jabs. Since you get more than 80% protection from one dose and 93% protection from two doses there is a very great degree of resistance to [the] virus in the UK population."

The PM's repetition of "in the UK" when referring to its vaccine rollout could be seen as a jibe at Merkel, with Germany's previous vaccine programme struggles well-documented.

According to the Our World in Data website, 49% of all people in the UK have been fully vaccinated, compared to 37% in Germany.

Meanwhile, immediately before Merkel discussed Wembley attendances, Johnson had dismissed concerns about England’s progress in the tournament aiding the spread of COVID among the wider population watching the games.

The PM was asked if he was concerned the "jubilation" of England fans gathering in groups could cause social distancing measures to "fall by the wayside".

TOPSHOT - England's forward Harry Kane celebrates with the fans after scoring the second goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium in London on June 29, 2021. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
England captain Harry Kane celebrates with fans after scoring the second goal against Germany on Tuesday. (Getty)

Johnson, though, appeared unconcerned as he said: "It’s important we all continue to take care, but obviously what you can see from the pattern of the pandemic is that the vaccines have played a pretty decisive role in breaking the link between infection and death and serious disease.

"The level of vaccination in this country is now very high and that’s why we are confident we will be able to proceed with step four [to end England's lockdown] on 19 July."

In the week up to Friday, there had been 157,675 COVID cases, up 74% on the previous seven-day period.

However, this exponential growth in cases has not translated into huge numbers of hospital admissions and deaths, as happened in the first and second waves of the pandemic.

Due to the vaccines, the rapid increase in cases is causing less serious illness, as demonstrated by these three charts.

The government's latest COVID figures for infections, deaths and hospital admissions. (gov.uk)
The government's latest COVID figures for infections, deaths and hospital admissions. (gov.uk)

Merkel had been visiting Chequers, the PM's official country residence in her final trip abroad before she stands down, for bilateral talks with Johnson amid concerns over plans to restrict travel to the EU.

She told the press conference double-jabbed Britons should be able to have a holiday in Europe without quarantine within the "foreseeable future".

Watch: Merkel on double-jabbed Brits holidaying in Europe

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