November 30 – All 13 cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Portugal involved players and staff of top division Belenenses, one of whose players recently returned from South Africa, according to health authorities.
At the weekend Belenenses’ fixture with Benfica was abandoned one minute into the second half with the hosts, who only managed to start with nine players after Covid left them with another 17 unavailable, were 7-0 down.
Only seven players returned to the pitch after halftime and it has now been established that Belenenses defender Cafu Phete tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from international duty in South Africa, where the new variant was first identified, on November 17. He and 12 others at the club were confirmed to be infected with the Omicron variant.
“Preliminary tests carried out strongly suggest that all 13 cases associated with players of Belenenses SAD are linked to the variant of concern Omicron,” a statement said.
By Monday, more than a dozen countries had reported cases of the variant, which the World Health Organisation said carried a very high global risk of new surges.
A Belenenses spokesman said most of those infected were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, and that 44 players and staff were self-isolating and waiting to repeat tests.
The Benfica and Belenenses presidents said that had they not played the match, they risked being penalised for an “unjustified absence”. They blamed the league and health authorities for not postponing the game.
Belenenses have asked the league to annul Saturday’s game and arrange a rematch amid an investigation whether the game had complied with health rules in a country that one of the world’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates.
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