Premier League reports highest weekly Covid-19 cases

Premier League reports highest weekly number of coronavirus cases

There were 18 positives after 1,479 tests on players and club staff from Dec. 21-27

Credit: Reuters file photo.

The Premier League has reported its highest number of coronavirus cases in a single week as Britain grapples with a sharp rise in infections amid the spread of a more contagious variant of Covid-19.

There were 18 positives after 1,479 tests on players and club staff from Dec. 21-27, the league said Tuesday.

Sheffield United followed Arsenal and Manchester City in announcing it had virus cases, but its game against Burnley was still due to be played on Tuesday.

Manchester City had previously announced that striker Gabriel Jesus and defender Kyle Walker tested positive last week. Further positives cases at City led to Monday's game at Everton being postponed.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl will miss Tuesday's game against West Ham after a member of his household tested positive for Covid-19. Southampton said Hasenhüttl will begin self-isolating "whilst we assess the situation further."

The league was testing players and staff twice a week last season, but reduced that to once a week this campaign.

However, after the government expressed concerns two weeks ago about a new, more transmissible variant of the virus that was first identified in southeast England, clubs around London started testing twice weekly again.

The previous highest number of coronavirus cases after weekly testing in the Premier League was 16 last month.

The rise is infections reflects the growth in coronavirus cases across Britain, where the death toll since the pandemic erupted in March is over 70,000, more than 40,000 cases were reported in a single day for the first time on Monday and the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients has surpassed the first peak of the outbreak in April.

The return of fans to stadiums has already been rolled back with Liverpool and Everton the only Premier League clubs allowed 2,000 spectators.

The spread of infections is particularly impacting the lower professional divisions, with seven out of 12 games in League One on Tuesday postponed. Medics at eastern club Ipswich and northwest side Rochdale have called for the competition to be halted.

Rochdale club doctor Wes Tensel is particularly concerned about players traveling around while the country is subject to varying coronavirus restrictions, which in London are closer to a lockdown.

"If the government were to put us in another lockdown like we had with the very first one where it was just essential travel, then football should also stop as well," Tensel said.

"If they carry on with tiers, the fact that everything the government have done so far the cases are still increasing, I would have thought football probably should be postponed.

"Footballers traveling around the country are not causing spikes in different tiers but they can still pass it on to their loved ones because the football bubble they are in bursts every time they go home."