ANGELA Merkel has expressed “grave concern” about the size of the crowds at Wembley for Euro 2020 matches given the risk of spreading Covid.

The German Chancellor voiced her fears at a joint press conference with Boris Johnson at the Prime Minister’s country retreat of Chequers.

More than 60,000 fans are to be allowed into Wembley for the semi-finals and final of the football tournament this month despite a surge in cases among recent attendees.

Date from Public Health Scotland published on Wednesday revealed almost 400 Scots who were inside Wembley for last month’s Scotland-England game later tested positive.

A further 700 who had been in London for Euro 2020, although not in Wembley, also tested positive.

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Scotland now has the highest Covid rate in the UK, with around 1 person in 150 infected, compared to 1 in 260 in England, 1 in 450 in Wales and 1 in 670 in Northern Ireland.

The plan for the final three matches of Euro 2020 on July 6, 7 and 11 would see Wembley opened up to 75 per cent of its 90,000 capacity.

On her last official visit to the UK before standing down as Chancellor later this year, Mrs Merkel said she had raised the issue with the Prime Minister in their talks today.

She told the press conference: “I say this with grave concern. I have also said this to the Prime Minister.

“We in Germany, as you know, have less people attend games in the Munich stadium but the British Government will obviously take its own decision.

“But I am very much concerned whether it is not a bit too much.”

Mr Johnson insisted sporting events were being opened up in a “very careful and controlled manner” after the comments.

He said: “The crucial point is that here in the UK we have now built up a very considerable wall of immunity by our vaccination programme.

“In the UK almost 85% have had a first dose and more than 63% have had two jabs. 

“Since you get more than 80% protection from one dose and 93% protection from two doses there is a very great degree of resistance to (the) virus in the UK population.”

He said there had been “a big change” in the relationship between case numbers and serious illness and deaths since the start of the vaccination programme.

“I want to stress that we have been very cautious at every stage. But that’s why I think it’s been effective and it’s why it’s been an irreversible road map (out of lockdown),” he said.

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Earlier, Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel had joked about England knocking Germany out of the competition with a 2-0 win at Wembley on Tuesday.

Noting Mrs Merkel’s 22 visits to the UK during her time in power, the PM said: “In the course of that time some things have changed beyond recognition but for much of your tenure it was certainly a tradition, Angela, for England to lose to Germany in international football tournaments. I’m obviously grateful to you for breaking with that tradition, just for once.”

Mrs Merkel replied: “Obviously this was not a voluntary offer on my side to create the right mood for this visit, but I have to accept it. You deserved it.  

“We were a little bit sad, but now the best of luck to the British team.”

Mrs Merkel also sounded a note of optimism on a return to foreign travel.

She said double-jabbed Britons should be able to holiday in Europe without quarantine in the “foreseeable future” despite her recent hesitancy because of the Delta variant.

She said travel restrictions were being reviewed for those with two coronavirus vaccinations.

She said the Delta, or Indian, variant was spreading “very rapidly” in Germany as well.

She said: “We have adopted certain protective measures when we were not so familiar with the Delta variant. e’re reviewing continuously our travel restrictions and we think that, in the foreseeable future, those who have received double jabs will then, according to our classification, and Britain now obviously is a high incidence area, will be able travel again without having to go into quarantine.”

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The pair also discussed Brexit and trade problems around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mrs Merkel said she was “optimistic” that “pragmatic solutions” could be brokered.

An extension to the grace period delaying a ban on the shipments of chilled meats to Northern Ireland from Britain was granted this week following UK-EU discussions.

Mr Johnson told the pressure conference: “I’m sure, as Angela says, with good will and with patience we can sort it out. Hopefully, as we said at our bilateral, when it comes to chilled meats the wurst is behind us, as I think Angela said, or maybe I said that.”

Earlier, Mrs Merkel addressed a virtual meeting of the UK Cabinet, the first foreign leader to do so since US President Bill Clinton in 1997.

Mr Johnson also announced the creation of a new academic medal in the German Chancellor’s honour.

An award of £10,000 will be given each year to a British or German woman in science, an area Mrs Merkel previously worked in, according to Downing Street.

It is named after Caroline Herschel, a German-born British astrophysicist who was a pioneer in the field, with the first medal expected to be awarded in early 2022.

An attempt to forge closer ties was also announced by agreeing to establish regular inter-governmental consultations.

The Queen is to receive Mrs Merkel at Windsor Castle later today as part of the Chancellor’s visit, her 22nd since taking office in 2005.