Soccer-Euro 2020 host city St Petersburg tightens COVID curbs as cases rise

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Soccer - Euro 2020 - Tour of Finland's base camp in St. Petersburg

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Dmitry Vasilyev

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Authorities in St Petersburg are tightening restrictions as the Russian city hosts foreign soccer fans for European Championship matches despite recording an increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

Russia has reported a recent jump in coronavirus cases while continuing to host major international events. Its two largest cities have announced additional measures to contain the pandemic.

"We are glad to welcome soccer fans from different cities and countries," Alexander Beglov, St Petersburg's governor, said in a statement late on Sunday.

"Unfortunately, a significant number of people were found to be neglecting safety requirements during the first public events linked to Euro 2020."

St Petersburg, which is hosting seven Euro 2020 matches including a quarter-final, is authorised to fill its stadium at 50% of capacity. Beglov said limiting the number of fans would have no effect if masks were worn at the stadium entrance but discarded in the stands.

Municipal authorities said they would shutter most food courts, order restaurants to close between 2:00 am and 6:00 am, and limit the number of people authorised to take part in public indoor and outdoor events starting on Thursday.

Organisers of the city's fan zone said they had purchased an additional 100,000 medical masks to distribute to visitors. Catering services in the fan zone will be closed starting on Thursday but drinks will continue to be sold, municipal authorities said.

Not all fans were thrilled by the increased scrutiny.

"I think restrictions are needed but they should be softer in the fan zone," said Andrei, a fan of the Russian team standing outside the area.

"Many foreign fans have come and they really want to cheer and take part in this event."

Ambulances containing suspected COVID-19 patients were lined up outside a local hospital on Monday, while metro officials denied entry to maskless commuters.

The new measures in St Petersburg, which reported 865 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, come a day after the mayor of Moscow said the city was repurposing thousands of hospital beds for an influx of COVID-19 patients and told residents to stay off work this week to help curb the spread of the virus.

Russia, a country of around 145 million people, has reported more than 5.2 million infections since the start of the pandemic.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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