Opposition politicians have said plans for the Euro 2020 fan zone in Glasgow are “baffling” and lack consistency, given the tight rules in other sectors.
Up to 6,000 ticketholders a day will be able watch matches on large screens at Glasgow Green over the 31-day event.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has insisted the outdoor space will be highly regulated.
However opponents say the event is more high risk than school sport days or soft play centres, which face curbs.
Parents whose children attend schools in level two areas are currently unable to attend sport days while soft play centres that operate in the zones remain shut.
Opposition MSPs said those attending the Glasgow fan zones should be subject to further Covid measures such as mass testing or temperature checks.
Euro 2020 kicks off on 11 June, with Glasgow one of 11 host cities.
About 12,000 fans will also gather in Hampden Park for four matches this month, taking the national stadium to 25% capacity.
On Tuesday Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was questioned in Holyrood over the controversial plans for the fan zone – he said it was a “low risk event” which would be monitored on an ongoing basis.
Members of the public are encouraged to take a lateral flow test before going to the area, however it is not mandatory – as it was in England for the FA Cup final – due to issues around equality, Mr Yousaf said.
It comes amid an outcry from various sectors in level two areas such as Glasgow still facing restrictions – including soft play centres, hospitality, the cruise industry and school sports days.
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie, who said she supported the event taking place, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that fan zone organisers Glasgow Life had offered to put a system of testing in place – but this was refused by Scotland’s national clinical director.
She said: “People really don’t understand the lack of consistency from the Scottish government.
“It just takes one person to have missed the opportunity to test themselves for Covid to spread – it’s whether that is an acceptable risk or not.
“If we are stopping soft play openings, and all sorts of other activities would be considered much safer, then people don’t understand why people are going ahead with a mass event.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, pictured right, has rolled her eyes on more than one occasion in the past 18 months when asked about football and Covid protocols.
Politicians and football rarely mix well – even less so, we’ve found out, during a pandemic. The fan zone issue is just the latest hot potato.
Planning around Glasgow’s Euro2020 host city status has been ongoing for years but given the nature of the virus, plans have been ripped up and started again on numerous occasions.
It’s an unenviable task but one the public expect those in charge to get right. When the city finally moved to level two there was never much doubt that the fan zones would go ahead.
Glasgow City Council has invested heavily in them but what many find strange is the apparent shift from Scotland being more Covid cautious than its UK neighbours to being more relaxed.
The Scottish government caveat is the use of the phrase “continually monitoring”, but the pressure is building from those who don’t understand why a football tournament should be given precedent over weddings, christenings and funerals.
When the tournament kicks off on Friday, the issue is likely to be lost in a wave of football fever. That is, unless the cases in Glasgow continue to rise.
Hospitality ‘watching with trepidation’
The hospitality sector has previously criticised the change in plans to serve alcohol at the fan zone as well as the risk that Glasgow could potentially go back to level three if cases continue to rise.
On Friday the country recorded its highest number of daily positive tests since February.
Scottish Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, pictured left, echoed Ms Baillie’s call for a mass testing programme to be introduced, saying failure to act could be part of a “catalogue of errors” that we “will pay for for the rest of the summer”.
He said: “I think we still have time to turn this around – Glasgow Life have a plan.
“[The hospitality industry] is watching on with trepidation, that this might lead to another spike that could force their businesses to close after all the money they’ve spent.
“For a government reported to have exercised such caution, this is baffling.”
‘Difficult to go back’
The health secretary said that permission could be withdrawn for the event if necessary – but Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser told the BBC he would be “very surprised” if the event were to be cancelled.
He questioned the practicality of mass testing and instead suggested temperature checks at points of entry.
He said: “It’s not fool proof – even Covid tests are not fool proof – but it would provide an extra safeguard.”
Public health expert Professor Linda Bauld, pictured right, also said making arrangements for mandatory testing was not something the government could “suddenly do”.
She said: “The fan zone is a big event – there’s a lot of sponsors involved, there’s a lot of money associated with this, it’s very difficult to go back on it now or indeed introduce new measures.
“It’s definitely not without risk and it’s hard for families, communities and sectors to understand the logic.”