Premier League clubs will test players up to nine times a week for Covid-19 in a bid to hold back the tidal wave of Omicron and prevent a shut down in the top flight with players waiting on boosters
- Premier League clubs have met to discuss threat of Omicron to fixture schedule
- Two top flight matches have already been postponed due to Covid outbreaks
- Clubs have been asked to consider daily LFT tests plus two PCR tests each week
- Testing will be optional on non training days and one PCR will be before a match
- Best form of protection is double vaccination and a booster, but slow take-up of jabs earlier this years means most player will not get third jab this month
Premier League clubs have agreed to test players up to nine times a week in an attempt to hold back the tidal wave of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant and prevent a shut down in the top flight.
The move follows the dramatic escalation in the occurrence of coronavirus within elite clubs, with 42 new cases identified last week, and two top flight matches already called off.
The transmissibility of the new variant and its prevalence among younger people poses a significant challenge to football clubs, where staff and players work in close proximity.
Mindful of the risk, the Premier League has sought to stay ahead of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described on Monday as a tidal wave of Covid cases about to wash across the country.
As well as demanding all clubs return to last season’s strict protocols involving mask-wearing and social distancing at stadiums and training grounds, the Premier League has now asked clubs to adopt daily lateral flow tests for each player and two PCR tests each week.
Manchester United have returned positive tests and their game against Brentford is now off
Ralf Rangnick’s squad had their training session cancelled on Monday due to the outbreak
At a shareholders’ meeting of all 20 clubs today, it was agreed to dramatically increase the level of testing and adopt the new schedule, although Sportsmail understands testing is optional on non training days.
One PCR test will be on the day before a match.
Since the arrival of Omicron in the UK, a number of clubs have reported outbreaks of the virus, including Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City, Manchester United, Aston Villa, QPR and West Bromwich Albion, with Norwich City having one player affected.
Tottenham Hotspur’s match at Brighton was postponed, QPR had to call off Monday’s Championship clash with Sheffield United due to an outbreak and Manchester United’s fixture with Brentford has also been postponed.
Tottenham have already had two games postponed due an outbreak in their squad
Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich has now declared that he does want to take a Covid-19 vaccine, after months of waiting.
The Germany international had refused to take the vaccine citing a ‘lack of long term studies’ as his reasoning, but had always maintained that he does not consider himself an anti-vaxxer.
Now, in an exclusive ZDF interview Kimmich has outlined that he now wants to be vaccinated against Covid.
Kimmich was infected with coronavirus and has since had to postpone his football comeback until next year, with lung problems.
Spurs’ Europa Conference League match at home to Rennes was also cancelled.
The Government and its scientific advisers have made clear that significant protection from Omicron requires double vaccination and a booster jab.
However, Premier League clubs remain dependent upon tests to prevent Omicron forcing further postponements because players have been slow to take up vaccines.
The current level of vaccination among top flight players is unknown, but the last figures to be released were in October when 68 per cent had received a double vaccination and 81 per cent had had a single dose.
The rate of vaccination picked up sharply in October following a concerted campaign by the league and clubs. It saw the proportion of double-jabbed players leap from one third to two thirds that month.
From tomorrow, 18-29-year-olds can have a booster jab under the Government plans to curb the spread of the virus. However, only one third of top-flight footballers will be eligible in December, since there has to be a three-month gap between the second and third doses. Those who receive a second jab in October will have to wait until January.
The Premier League says vaccination rates have increased since October, but not disclosed figures. Those players who were double jabbed in November will have to wait until February for their booster.
Premier League clubs are fearful the rise in Covid-19 cases could force mass postponements
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