Officials are pleading with hundreds of attendees of an illegal football match held in Strasbourg to come forward and get tested for the coronavirus or risk undoing weeks of progress. Authorities insist it “isn’t a trap.”
The match was played on Sunday between teams from the city’s districts of Neuhof and Hautepierre and was attended by an estimated 400 spectators who all defied lockdown rules, specifically those limiting gatherings to 10 people or less since France began easing lockdown measures on May 11.
Video from the scene on Sunday shows large crowds rushing the pitch at the conclusion of the game, in clear contravention of social distancing norms enforced throughout Europe.
“The formation of a new cluster must be avoided at all costs. Our fear is great that this gathering caused the contamination of several people, among the players as well as the public, and that they, in turn, run the risk of being dangerous to their loved ones,” Strasbourg Mayor Roland Reis stressed.
“If there are other events like those on Sunday, all the work done to contain the virus over the two months of lockdown will be put into question,” he added.
Attendees from the game are asked to go to a testing center set up at the European Parliament, and no appointment or prior screening is required.
Strasbourg is the chief city of the Wider East region which, alongside Paris, is one of the worst-affected areas of the country; Official figures place the national coronavirus death toll at over 28,500 people, 5,130 of which were recorded in hospitals and care homes in the Wider East region.
There have been no arrests so far in relation to the illegal game, though police are hunting for the organizers.
“The objective of the investigation isn’t to identify all the spectators, but rather the organisers,” said Strasbourg chief prosecutor Yolande Renzi.
Under normal circumstances, those found in violation of lockdown rules face a possible six-month prison sentence or a €7,500 ($8,240) fine.
Both France’s football and rugby leagues have formally ended the 2019/2020 season and professional team sport is not expected to begin again until September.
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