Colombian minister insists Copa will go ahead

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"The Copa America is still as planned from the start: Argentina and Colombia,"  Ernesto Lucena told El Tiempo newspaper on Friday (AEST). 

"The analysis of the president of Argentina is relevant," continued Lucena, who is recovering from COVID-19, before saying that the president of CONMEBOL, South American football's governing body "has repeated: the Copa will be held with or without an audience".

Earlier in the day, Argentina President Alberto Fernandez said the pandemic cast doubt over the tournament.

"I don't want to spoil the Copa America show but I think we have to be very sensible and careful," he said. "We still have time to see how things develop and how we can deal with this problem."

Argentina is due to host the opening match of the South American tournament on 14 June (AEST). The final will be played in Colombia on 11 July (AEST).

It is the first time in the tournament's 105-year history that there are two host countries.

Lucena said that "it is not envisaged" that Colombia would host the event alone.

The Copa was meant to take place last year but was postponed by 12 months because of the global pandemic.

Guest participants Australia and Qatar have already pulled out, leaving just the 10 members of CONMEBOL to take part.

Closed-door matches have become the norm in Colombia since March 2020 but in the same month this year, Lucena said he thought Colombia's stadiums would be filled to 30 per cent capacity.

In recent weeks, the Colombian government has imposed, and then tightened, a series of restrictions to stem a third wave of infections that is bringing its health system to the brink of collapse.

A curfew has been in force in Argentina since early April.

On Wednesday (AEST), CONMEBOL announced that it would distribute 50,000 doses of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac to South American footballers ahead of the Copa.

The novel coronavirus has caused more than 2.5 million infections and 67,199 deaths in Colombia.

In Argentina, there have been 2.6 million infections and 58,542 deaths.

Several Colombian and Argentine clubs have also experienced outbreaks of the disease.


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