Premier League’s toughest test as weekly positive cases double to 40

By Andrew Warshaw

January 6 – English Premier League clubs are under pressure to do more to ensure their players follow the country’s coronavirus protocols after a record 40 positive tests – more than double the previous weekly high – were revealed in the latest figures released.

Four top-flight games have already been postponed due to Covid-19 this season and although the Premier League is reported to have not discussed the possibility of a circuit break, the alarming new statistics – partially as a result of the move to twice-weekly testing – saw positive results mirror record infection rates throughout the UK.

Newcastle’s game away at Aston Villa on December 4, Everton vs Manchester City on December 28, Tottenham vs Fulham on December 30 and Burnley vs Fulham on January 3 were all postponed, the last three amid serious outbreaks at both City and Fulham.

“With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the League continues to have confidence in its COVID-19 protocols, fully backed by the Government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled,” a Premier League statement said amid the latest national lockdown during which elite sport is still permitted but all other sport outlawed.

The situation has been exacerbated by a series of much-publicised incidents over Christmas and the New Year when a raft of Premier League players – including three from one club, Tottenham Hotspur – breached the rules over banned gatherings.

Oliver Dowden, the country’s secretary of state for culture, media and sport, is reported by some media organisations to have questioned players’ behaviour in talks with Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, whose club today reported three more cases among players and staff just hours before their League Cup semi-final at rivals Manchester United, said football was finding it hard to cope with the reality of being exempt from the strict national rules but insisted the show must be allowed to go on.

“Everything is locked down except ourselves,” said Guardiola. “It looks like we are an island society.”

“When people say football players are special maybe it is the truth. I thought the doctors, teachers, architects, every person was the same – but it looks as if everything is closed except our business.

“All the managers must adapt to the situation, we are not an exception. Don’t change the schedule, don’t change the calendar, don’t change the rules, we have to adapt.”

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