Fans in Africa Cup of Nations stadiums must be vaccinated against COVID

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DOUALA, Dec 16 (Reuters) – Spectators at next month’s Africa Cup of Nations soccer finals in Cameroon must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and show a negative test result before entering stadiums, the African Football Confederation (CAF) said on Thursday.

The competition, comprising teams from 24 countries, is scheduled to start on Jan. 9 but concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus among the mass of traveling fans and players have prompted organisers to tighten restrictions.

Under previous rules, only players, coaching staff and officials had to be vaccinated and tested.

“Health authorities will take all necessary measures to facilitate vaccinations and to perform the COVID tests,” CAF said in a joint statement with Cameroon’s government.

COVID has plagued the organisation of the tournament, causing it to be postponed in June.

This week it emerged that the European Club Association (ECA) threatened not to release players because they were concerned there were no COVID-19 protocols in place and that players may have to quarantine on returning to their clubs.

CAF sent its general-secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba to Cameroon to speed up preparations, in a move that heightens concerns over the country’s readiness.

It is not clear how authorities will go about administering doses in Cameroon whose vaccination rates are some of the lowest globally. It has only rolled out enough doses to fully vaccinate 1.9% of the population, according to Reuters data.

Reporting By Bate Felix and Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Jonathan Oatis