FILE PHOTO: Iranian people wear protective face masks, as they walk amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tehran. REUTERS./

By Kayhan Life Staff

Some 60,000 spectators watched the European Cup final (EURO 2020) between England and Italy national football teams at Wembley Stadium in London on July 11.Italy won the championship in a penalty shootout.

Following the match, people poured into the streets all over Italy, celebrating their national football team’s victory.

The scenes of jubilant Italians in cities and towns stood in stark contrast to images of grieving families of coronavirus victims, broadcast on domestic and international TV news outlets last year. Italy was the European country worst hit by the coronavirus.

According to the latest government report, the country “has administered 38 million doses of Covid vaccines overall, with almost one in four people in Italy (24 percent) having received at least one dose.”

The British government and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) had agreed to allow 60,000 spectators to attend the cup final at the Wembley Stadium. The decision by the UK government followed a successful vaccination campaign in the country.

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According to the UK official report, close to 46 million people have received their first COVID-19 vaccine to date, and another 35 million have given two doses. England will ease most COVID restrictions on July 19.

The UK and Italy vaccination success is a significant achievement by both countries, given that they were among the countries with the highest COVID deaths in Europe last year.

Many Iranians on social media have contrasted Britain and Italy’s successful vaccination efforts with the dismal failure of the Islamic Republic to protect its population against the disease.

Iran faces a severe vaccine shortage because Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has banned the country from purchasing any vaccine from the U.S. and the UK. The vaccine shortage has forced many Iranians to go to neighboring countries, including Armenia, to get their shots.

Iran started vaccinating its population in February. The government has vaccinated only 5 million people out of 83 million living in the country. That is only 4.85 percent of the people. The country has been hit by the fifth wave of infection caused by the Delta variant. Iran will experience the sixth wave of the disease soon.

On July 11, a social media user, @Drfanus, tweeted: “Italy was the second country after China to fall victim to the coronavirus. I can still remember footage of ICUs showing Italian doctors crying while caring for patients on ventilators. Those were the first raw images of the coronavirus that people around the globe saw.”

Iran has bought nearly 10 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine from Russia, India, Italy, and South Korea to date, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. The country received another 500,000 doses from an unnamed country on July 10; the report added.

A day later, another social media user, @ mahmoni29955349, tweeted: “Coronavirus epidemic was at its worst here in Milan, Italy last year. The number of coronavirus deaths was more than those reported in Iran. Close to 70,000 spectators attended the football match in London yesterday.”

The accompanying footage to the tweet showed a large crowd of people in Milan celebrating Italy’s EURO 2020 win.

“We have worked extremely closely with UEFA and the FA [Football Association] to ensure rigorous and tight public health measures are in place while allowing more fans to see the action live,” Oliver Dowden, British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, tweeted on June 11. “The finals promise to be an unforgettable moment in our national recovery from the pandemic.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said on July 12: “It has been a special EURO, for sure. I will remember it as the beginning of normality and the return of fans. I have never seen a dramatic Euros like this one, with brilliant matches and surprising results.”

Many Iranians, who followed EURO 2020 matches and watched the final between Italy and England national football teams, posted comments on social media, contrasting the success of the vaccine distribution in those two countries with the Islamic Republic’s ongoing failure to immunize its population.

@ ordinaryguy77 tweeted: “As we all remember, Seda va Sima [the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)] reported last year that the coronavirus had devastated the British and Italian population. It claimed that the streets of many cities were littered with dead bodies. Some 60,000 spectators watched the football match in London tonight. Meanwhile, my 66-year-old father has not received his vaccine shots.”

Another social media user highlighted IRIB’s negative coverage of the coronavirus epidemic in Europe and tweeted: “Channel one [IRTV1] said the coronavirus had brought Europe to its knees. Channel 2 [IRTV2] claimed a fresh wave of coronavirus infection has swept over entire Europe. The Khabar [News] TV reported that the new wave of infection had cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines. But when we switched to Channel 3 [IRTV3], we saw thousands of spectators watching the football match in a stadium!”

Another social media user, @SarkaratDr, tweeted: “Some 60,000 spectators attended EURO 2020 final between Italy and England last night. Also, hundreds of thousands of fans watched the match in public venues. These are the same English, and Italian people whom we heard were suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Another football fan, @armangaram, on July 6 tweeted: “I am watching the match between Italy and Spain. The stadium is full of spectators who are sitting next to each other and not wearing masks. Meanwhile, we are coping with a power outage, the fifth wave of coronavirus infection, and watching our fellow Iranians trying to go to Armenia to get their free vaccines.”

While medical experts continue to warn about another surge in infection, the Iranian government has yet to deliver its promise to vaccinate its population.

A social media user, @ sahartwitte1, tweeted: “And the end is here, goodbye to EURO 2020; farewell to hugs and kisses and a stadium packed with spectators, goodbye to a world without COVID, and goodbye to beauty. Mum, let’s go to sleep because we will have to wear our masks tomorrow and return to our real world and face the fifth wave.”

Iran’s Health Minister, Dr. Saeed Namaki, had said, starting July 10, the government would vaccinate 400,000 people a day. Once again, the government has not kept its promise. Some 12 million people 60-years and younger with underlying health issues are still waiting for their first dose.

The spokesperson for the Health Ministry, Sima Sadat Lari, said on July 12 that the number of hospital outpatients with the coronavirus in the country had increased by 40 percent in the second week of July. She added that the number of hospitalizations and deaths resulted from COVID-19 had risen by 17 percent and 10 percent compared to the previous week.

The Iranian provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan, Yazd, and Bushehr have reported the highest COVID deaths.

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