Centre court in Covid: How safe is it really at Wimbledon?
- Credit: PA News
It was a day of drama on Wimbledon's centre court as Andy Murray clawed his way back from near defeat to beat German Oscar Otte. But how safe did it feel as a spectator? Caroline Culot was in the crowd of more than 7,000 people.
It was a day of tension on centre court with Novak Djokovic being challenged by Kevin Anderson, followed by Brit Katie Boulter's surprise testing of number two seeded opponent Aryna Sabalenka. And then an unforgettable, epic struggle for Murray as Otte took him to a five set match that played on late into the night.
But was the tension on the court matched by the same anxiety over being in a crowd in a pandemic?
Wimbledon is one of the government's trial events running at half its 15,000 capacity on centre court until the finals.
Rules on entry are strict in that you have to show you've been double jabbed by displaying your NHS Covid pass or proof of a negative test.
Masks are supposed to be worn while moving around the ground but not in your seat. There are plenty of hand sanitiser stations throughout and all staff and officials wore masks.
Once inside the court, however, despite there being seats free, you are in very close quarters to thousands of strangers. And unlike at a wedding, you're allowed to cheer and shout as well as sing and move around.
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People all around you are eating, drinking and yelling as well as coughing and sneezing.
Moving around the ground is equally a potential germ fest with many people not wearing masks. Queues for food and drink have social distancing stickers on the floor but no one adhered to them. Seats for dining were outside but mainly benches, close together, and forget any disinfecting of surfaces between customers.
Venture into shops on site and people have to wear masks but there's no limiting of numbers.
It's certainly the biggest crowd I've been in since the start of Covid.
However, the experience of watching Murray's agonising struggle against Otte and to see him triumph, dissipated Covid fears. Everyone just forgot, it seemed, and life was back as it used to be as we all chatted to strangers and shared an unforgettable day together.
We know almost 2,000 people at Wembley later tested positive for Covid. Time will tell on the stats from Wimbledon.
But would I have stayed at home instead? Not for a minute; it was a day to be remembered forever. Let's hope it didn't come at too high a cost.