Portugal investigates mass gathering of football fans amid pandemic

Soccer Football - Primeira Liga - Sporting CP v Boavista - Lisbon, Portugal - May 11, 2021 Sporting CP team bus drives past fans celebrating after winning the Primeira Liga near by Estadio Jose Alvalade REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

LISBON, May 12 (Reuters) - Portugal's government said on Wednesday it was investigatinghow a mass gathering of thousands of Sporting fans celebrating their club being crowned Portuguese champions got out of hand.

On Tuesday evening, thousands of elated soccer fans spread across Lisbon, including in the city's main square, Marques do Pombal, to celebrate their club winning the title for first time in nearly two decades. read more

Many of the supporters ditched face masks and maintaining social-distancing became close to impossible as more people showed up. Other became aggressive, breaking down metal barriers and throwing glass bottles and smoke bombs towards police and journalists.

Lawmakers have criticised the government, led by Prime Minister Antonio Costa, and health authorities for not putting together an adequate plan to reduce the risk of contagion during the celebrations.

"I will not point the finger at anyone, neither at Sporting, nor at the club's supporters or the police," Costa told parliament on Wednesday. "I will do what any responsible politician must do, which is to wait for information to find out who is responsible."

The interior ministry has requested clarifications from the police, the health authority and Lisbon's local government. It has alsoasked its general inspection unit to investigate how the police handled the situation.

Portugal, which has suffered 840,493 cases and 16,998 deaths, imposed a nationwide lockdown in mid-January to tackle what was then the world's worst coronavirus surge. Infections have dropped sharply since then and rules have been lifted.

"It was a night that went well for those who were happy and not so well in terms of public health," said the country's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, adding that authorities failed to implement the necessary measures.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Giles Elgood

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Thomson Reuters

Portugal-based multimedia correspondent reporting on politics, economics, the environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK., co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese-speakers living in London, and edited a youth-led news site.