36 players and club staff have tested positive during the latest rounds of testing for COVID-19 in the English Premier League between January 4 and 10.
Although the number is a slight decrease in the 40 positive tests following the previous week’s rounds of testing, it is still a major concern to players, staff, administrators and other stakeholders.
The news comes on the day the Tottenham vs Aston Villa match was postponed due to coronavirus cases in the Villa camp, and after some Championship games were suspended for three weeks because of the rising number of cases.
As a result of the rise in COVID-19 cases, the league is already seeing disruption in fixtures this season. Premier League clubs are finding that matches are being postponed or rearranged at short notice because of the virus, which Fulham manager, Scott Parker, termed as “scandalous” earlier this month.
Last week, Villa manager, Dean Smith, and his first-team squad had to isolate and had their training ground closed following 14 positive tests at the club. They fielded a side featuring academy players in the 4-1 FA Cup defeat by Liverpool.
Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, has written to clubs to “stress the critical importance of adhering” to COVID protocols as patience wears thin with some footballers who continue to breach the rules.
In his letter, Masters described images of some players ignoring social distancing rules in the FA Cup as “concerning scenes,” as footballers continued to engage in handshakes, high fives, and hugs.
The English football governing body has issued new enhanced guidelines and graphics on what was expected of players and staff on match days. It includes the banning of shirt swapping after matches and “unnecessary contact, particularly between opposition clubs”. It continued to state that face coverings “must be worn at all times by players, coaches and staff on route to and fro the stadium and within the stadium premises, including the dressing room”.
Manchester United’s manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, tried to make excuses after his team won their match against Burnley, stating: “It’s an emotional game. We have to understand the players when they celebrate but also understand the concern nowadays for a bit of less emotions and less hugging.”