Premier League hit by record COVID-19 infections

The Premier League has revealed a record 103 players and staff tested positive for the coronavirus in the period from December 20 to 26.

Just a week ago, the English top-flight set a new high since testing began in 2020 with 90 positive cases.

That mark has now been beaten as the Omicron variant takes its toll.

“The League can today confirm between Monday 20 December and Sunday 26 December, 15,186 COVID-19 tests were administered on players and club staff.

“Of these, there were 103 new positive cases,” a Premier League statement said.

So far in December, 15 Premier League games have been called off, while the three divisions below the top tier have been decimated by postponements.

“The safety of everyone is a priority and the Premier League is taking all precautionary steps in response to the impact of the Omicron variant.”

Liverpool’s game against Leeds, Watford’s trip to Wolves and Burnley against Everton were all cancelled before their scheduled Boxing Day fixtures.

Arsenal’s home match against Wolves on Tuesday was axed on Sunday after an increase in case numbers among Wolves’ squad.

Leeds’ game with Aston Villa, scheduled for December 28, was also postponed on Sunday due to Leeds’ continued Covid and injury issues.

Arsenal went on with their match on Boxing Day though they had their own share of the COVID-19 crisis.

Sambi Lokonga and Pablo Mari were two of the players in the squad who did return positive results, with Calum Chambers the latest one to be included in that group.

However, in the build-up to their match at Carrow Road, the club confirmed three further positive cases that plunged the club into a mini selection crisis.

Already recovering from an injury, Takehiro Tomiyasu joined his teammates in contracting the virus, along with Cedric Soares and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Despite the rise in Covid cases and several postponements, Premier League chiefs last week opted against halting the season despite calls from some top-flight bosses for a ‘circuit breaker’.

At the same meeting, clubs were warned that games will go ahead if each team has 13 fit outfield players and a goalkeeper.

“The League has reverted to its Emergency Measures, and has increased testing of players and club staff to daily Lateral Flow and twice-weekly PCR tests, having previously carried out Lateral Flow testing twice a week,” the statement said.

“The League is continuing to work with clubs to keep people safe by helping mitigate the risks of COVID-19 within their squads.

“We are also liaising closely with the Government, local authorities and supporter groups while being responsive to any future changes to national or local guidance.”

Six Premier League games did go ahead on Sunday in front of full crowds despite Britain battling a significant rise in positive Covid cases.

No restrictions have yet been put in place for the size of crowds at matches in England, although supporters do have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test taken in the previous 48 hours.

Sport in Wales was forced back behind closed doors from Sunday, while in Scotland a restriction of 500 outdoor public events has seen Scottish Premiership clubs bring forward their winter break by a week. (AFP)

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