A last-minute decision to ease Covid-19 safety rules for Saturday’s Champions League final angered locals as hundreds of unmasked English fans filled bars bordering Porto.
European football’s governing body UEFA has moved the final between English clubs Manchester City and Chelsea from Istanbul to Porto to allow England fans to travel to the match under Covid-19 restrictions.
Some Porto residents fear a spike in infections due to the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus which is spreading in parts of England after being first identified in India.
Others are upset that foreign fans can enter the stadium, but locals have been banned from attending matches for months.
“If they open [the stadiums] to the English, they should be open to everyone,” said Alexandre Magalhaes, walking through Porto, which was teeming with supporters.
The Portuguese government initially said England fans should only enter on match day, stay in a ‘bubble’ and return home right after the match.
But on Thursday, authorities dropped the requirement for fans to stay in the bubbles and lifted movement restrictions.
“If these [new rules] are true, I will no longer abide by any lockdowns,” one Twitter user wrote. Another wrote: “It is a shame for anyone who continues to adhere to health rules. “
Chelsea fan ‘borrows’ a busker’s microphone to lead fans in tribute to Tino Werner in Porto. pic.twitter.com/6vrZSDDYYR
Portugal imposed a lockdown in January after a surge in cases, but the rules have since been relaxed.
Some 16,500 supporters will be allowed to enter the stadium. Many more have come to support their teams away from home.
On Friday night, hundreds of maskless fans flooded bars along the Douro River in Porto, drinking beer and chanting team slogans as police kept a close watch.
Although fans have broken the coronavirus rules in place to reduce the risk of contagion, which make it mandatory to wear a mask in crowded areas, police officers on the ground have not enforced the wearing of masks.
Police Commander Paula Peneda told a press conference that authorities were expecting many English fans without tickets in the city on Saturday, but could not say how many.
Authorities said they could not prevent fans from traveling as British tourists are now allowed to enter and leave Portugal if they test negative.
London Metropolitan Police Superintendent Lysander Strong said two fan zones with a capacity of 6,000 people each – one for each team – would be set up in the city.
From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., the fan zones will only be open to ticket holders who will then be transported to the stadium.
The zones will then open to those who do not have a ticket. The consumption of beer is permitted and all supporters must present a negative Covid-19 test to access fan zones.
Porto mayor Rui Moreira said the city was ready for the final after having only had two weeks to prepare.
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