BERLIN — A top German official says it was “absolutely irresponsible” of European soccer’s governing body to allow some 40,000 fans to watch England’s European Championship match against Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium.

The crowd for Tuesday’s second-round match, which England won 2-0, was the biggest in Britain since the pandemic began in March 2020. The event came as the more contagious delta variant is fueling a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases in the U.K.

Asked about the capacity decision on Thursday, and about the prospect of more fans attending the final at Wembley, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer replied: “I think this UEFA position is absolutely irresponsible.”

Seehofer, who is also responsible for sports, added: “I have the suspicion that this is about commerce again, and commerce must not outshine the protection of the population against infection.”

He appealed to UEFA “not to push this off on local health authorities -- a sports association should say clearly, ’we don’t want it this way and we’re reducing the numbers of spectators.”


MORE ON THE PANDEMIC

— Thailand opens resort island of Phuket to vaccinated foreigners in ambitious plan to revive devastated tourism industry

Biden well short on goal of delivering 80 million vaccine doses to world as White House cites local hurdles

Indonesia vaccinates thousands in one-day event as it escalates its virus fight amid surge that's filling hospitals

California's reopening and variant cases among the unvaccinated put health officials on edge, prompt LA mask recommendation

Rebuilding the post-pandemic world will be a colossal human effort aimed at gluing back the pieces of human divides

— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine


HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office says a 10-week drop in COVID-19 cases in the region has ended, and warned that a new wave could loom unless people “remain disciplined” and more people get vaccinated.

Dr. Hans Kluge on Thursday cited a 10% increase in infection numbers over the last week because of “increased mixing, travel, gatherings, and easing of social restrictions.” He cautioned that the highly transmissible delta variant is on track to be the dominant one by August in the 53-country region.

Some 63 percent of people in the region haven’t had a first vaccine jab, he said.

“The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and deaths before the autumn are therefore in place: New variants, deficit in vaccine uptake, increased social mixing,” he told reporters from Copenhagen, Denmark.

“There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined, and even more so when there is much less rules in place to follow, and unless we all take the vaccine without hesitating when it is our turn,” he added.

Kluge said people who want to travel and gather over the summer should continue “life-saving reflexes” like wearing masks. WHO Europe says people should make sure they get both doses of double-jab vaccines for maximum effectiveness.

Dr. Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer at WHO Europe, warned governments not to lift social distancing measures amid increased transmission. She said any such lifting should be accompanied by stronger public-health measures; sharing and sequencing information on new variants; testing; and reinforcing contact tracing.


WARSAW, Poland – In a move to boost uptake in coronavirus vaccinations, Poland launched a nationwide lottery Thursday for fully inoculated adults in which they can win money or prizes that include Toyota cars.

The lottery runs through September, a time when the Health Ministry says Poland can expect a fourth wave of infections, mainly due to the social mixing during vacation and the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Those who register will be eligible for prizes ranging from 200 zlotys ($52; 44 euros) in daily draws, to 100,000 zlotys ($26,000; euro 22,000) or Toyota Corolla cars in monthly draws. The top prizes are two Toyota C-HR cars and two wins of 1 million zlotys ( $263,000; 221,000 euros)

Some 12.3 million people in the nation of 38 million have been fully vaccinated, and another 17 million have received the first shot. There have been some 2.9 million registered COVID-19 infections, of which 75,000 have led to deaths.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fiji reported a record 431 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday as an outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant continued to grow.

Health authorities have reported nearly 5,000 cases and 22 deaths since the outbreak in the South Pacific nation began two months ago.

The government of the island nation of nearly 1 million people has resisted calls for a full lockdown as leaders try to protect an economy that last year contracted by 19% as international tourism evaporated.

Health authorities say that about 9% of people getting tested for the virus are returning positive results, a figure that has been increasing and indicates the outbreak is spreading.

Despite the growing outbreak, the government announced steps to reopen retail stores in and around the capital, Suva.

Faiyaz Koya, the minister for commerce, trade and tourism, said that without a reopening plan, some stores would need to close permanently.


TUBINGEN, Germany — German vaccine maker CureVac says younger people could benefit from its coronavirus shot, following disappointing results in a broader age group.

The company said Wednesday that its vaccine is 53% effective against COVID-19 of any severity in 18- to 60-year-olds. Overall, though, CurveVac says the shot is 48% effective, based on 83 cases in the vaccine group and 145 in the placebo group.

The World Health Organization has said vaccines with an efficacy above 50% are worth using, though many of those already approved have a far higher rate.

CureVac says it has sent the data to the European Medicines Agency, which is conducting a review.

CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas says the vaccine fully protects 18- to 60-year-olds against hospitalization. He calls it “an important contribution to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the dynamic variant spread.”


BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana’s governor is lifting the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic more than 15 months after it was imposed under his predecessor.

Wednesday’s move by Gov. Greg Gianforte comes as COVID-19 case rates continue to slowly drop in Montana. Almost half the state’s eligible residents are now fully vaccinated.

Broad public health mandates such as face mask requirements and occupancy limits for businesses were previously rescinded.

Other states also have lifted emergency declarations in recent days as the public health crisis eases.

The respiratory disease has caused at least 1,665 deaths in Montana.

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