Officials in the French city of Strasbourg are calling for hundreds of people who watched an illegal football match this weekend to get tested for COVID-19 over fears the badly-hit area could see a new flare-up of the deadly virus.
Around 400 people watched the illegal football match held on Sunday evening in a local stadium in Strasbourg, "diregarding all clear interdictions and health safety guidelines", Mayor Roland Ries wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
France began easing lockdown measures imposed to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic on May 11 but public gatherings of more than 10 people remain banned.
Deputy Mayor Serge Oehler criticised the match as irresponsible and of a "gravity beyond measure".
A mass testing campaign has now been organised with anyone who participated or watched the game urged to visit the testing centre at the European parliament. Officials stressed their anonymity would be preserved to assuage fears of judicial reprisals.
"The formation of a new cluster must be avoided at all costs. Our fear is great that this gathering caused the contamination of several people, among the players as well as the public, and that they, in turn, run the risk of being dangerous to their loved ones," Ries stressed.
The mayor also revealed that both the city and the region's Prefecture had filed official complaints with the police.
"The prosecutor said that an investigation is underway to establish responsibility and determine if there were any accomplices, as no signs of a break-in were found on the premises. It is essential that this investigation is carried out diligently," Ries said.
The inquiry will target the organiser(s) of the match. Violating the ban on public gatherings can result in a six-month prison sentence and a €7,500 fine.
More than 28,500 people have died from the novel coronavirus in France since the beginning of the outbreak, health officials said on Tuesday.
The Wider East region, of which Strasbourg is the chief city, has been one of the most severely impacted with more than 5,130 fatalities recorded in hospitals and care homes. Only the Ile-de-France region has a higher death toll.