Portugal “was not chosen by chance” to host the final of the soccer Champions League, but because “it was one of the countries that best handled” the covid-19, points out an adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Speaking to Lusa, just days from participating in an Iberian initiative on the impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector, Maurizio Barbeschi, advisor to the WHO’s Executive Director for Sanitary Emergencies, says he does not know the dossier that underpinned the choice of Portugal to host the eight final of the football Champions League, scheduled for August. However, he stresses, he is sure that Portugal “was not chosen by chance”, but because “it has a strong health system” and “it was one of the countries that best handled” the pandemic, which has already caused more than 500 thousand deaths and infected more than 12 million people in 196 countries and territories.
“[Portugal] was not chosen because of the quality of the infrastructure or the football tradition, but because of everything that surrounds the football field”, which enjoys “high regard” internationally, he highlights. “If we add the public system, the awareness of the protocol, the verification and mitigation measures – all of this justified the decision to consider that the choice of Portugal was the one that minimized the risks”, he considers.
Maurizio Barbeschi, originally from Italy, one of the countries most affected by the covid-19 pandemic, analyzes that “the performance, as if it were a harmonic, made Portugal a success story in controlling the epidemic, because collective thinking was fight the disease ”.
Regarding the health risk associated with the football final, the counselor replies: “I don’t know what the situation will be at the end of August for all the teams that are going to participate.”
While it is certain that “the pandemic will still be present” in Europe and Portugal, it is also true that the finalist teams “will travel with special attention” and “are already taking measures to minimize their own risks”, he emphasizes. “The teams will be a kind of bubbles, moving simultaneously towards Portugal, and that is very good”, because Portugal offers guarantees, he highlights.
On the other hand, “fans are not bubbles”, he acknowledges. “But I don’t know what kind of viewers will be allowed, if any,” he adds.
However, he believes, if all measures are adopted at the same time – the process of placing the public in the country, public transport, the cleaning of the facilities, the distance between people, screening and identification, hand washing and of the surfaces, the use of masks – “it will be a success story”.
And he compares: “It’s the same for the metro. It is not the football game that is a problem, it is the amount of time and proximity between people. ”
A football game “lasts only a few minutes, but in reality, there is a five-day party for the cities that host it,” he recalls. “A football game is also a joy, an industry, many jobs are at risk”, he stresses.
The Portuguese and Spanish news agencies, Lusa and Efe, will debate the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on Tourism, in a joint virtual forum, EURAGORA, financed by the European pilot project Stars4Media, which aims to support innovation in the sector of media, through training and cross-border cooperation within the European Union.
The debates – to be broadcast on the 15th and 16th of July, through a joint online platform and the social networks of both agencies – are the result of an unprecedented partnership between Lusa and Efe and will bring together international organizations, European commissioners, ministers and regional and local officials from the two countries, and associations in the tourism and consumer sectors.
This article is available in: Português