The Premier League has explained why it will be able to continue after 40 positive coronavirus cases were discovered over two rounds of testing in late December and early January.
The league announced its latest figures on Tuesday afternoon which showed that of 1,311 players and club staff tested between December 28 and 31, 28 came back positive for Covid-19.
In tests on 984 players and staff carried out between January 1 and 3 there were a further 12 positives, the league said.
It is understood the bulk of the positives relate to the three postponed fixtures over the period involving Manchester City and Fulham.
City’s match against Everton on December 28 was called off because of an outbreak at the Manchester club. Fulham’s games against Tottenham and Burnley on December 30 and January 3 respectively have also had to be rescheduled.
All those who tested positive must self-isolate for 10 days.
It is understood the second round of testing featured a smaller group of players and staff than usual because it took place over a weekend, when some teams were involved in matches.
Premier League releases statement
The Premier League said in a statement confirming the new figures: “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.”
The league is understood to have held conversations with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden following the announcement of a new national lockdown on Monday night, in which the minister expressed support for the measures being taken and gave his backing for elite sport to continue.
The PA news agency understands there are ongoing discussions between the clubs and the league about ways in which the protocols can be further tightened in communal areas like training grounds and any pre-match accommodation.
There have also been a number of incidents involving Premier League players breaching coronavirus rules which everyone in society is expected to abide by.
Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso and Sergio Reguilon were photographed at a gathering which was also attended by West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola defended the club’s full-back Benjamin Mendy after he breached restrictions by inviting friends to his house on New Year’s Eve.
“It would be better if, before we judge others, we judge ourselves,” the Catalan coach said.
“Of course it was not correct what he has done, but don’t judge him too much. Maybe many people have done the same. It’s easy to judge others.”