KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The Premier League meets today in emergency online session to devise a strategy to meet the latest Covid-19 crisis after six of the weekend’s 10 matches had to be postponed because of club outbreaks.
The omicron variant has seen recorded infections soar beyond a record 90,000-a-day. The UK’s daily death rate remains unchanged at around 110 but government and health officials are worried about the rapid increase in infections.
Half the population has already received a third vaccination but new restrictions include an order that anyone attending an event involving a crowd of more than 10,000 must have proof of either two vaccinations or a negative test. Hence matches taking place continue to do so at full capacity.
The direct challenge to clubs is an increase in the number of their own cases ‘in-house’. At the moment around 32pc of Premier players have not been double-vaccinated. This has sparked increasing anger among managers and owners.
Burnley’s American owner Alan Pace followed up the postponement of the match at Aston Villa by warning that unvaccinated players should “choose a new career.” Pace said: “These are personal choices but it can’t be right to put everybody at else at risk.”
So far postponements have been decided on a match-by-match basis when clubs do not have 14 senior players fit and healthy. Burnley, Brighton and Tottenham have each had three matches postponed.
The Premier League does not want to order a full-scale postponement, particularly ahead of the busy, popular and lucrative holiday programme. The government is also opposed to a third national lockdown. A general UK consensus is that Covid is here to stay and the nation must learn live with it.
Liverpool is one club who claim 100pc vaccination of players and staff even though Virgil van Dijk, Curtis Jones and Fabinho missed Thursday’s win over Newcastle after recording positive lateral flow tests.
Manager Jurgen Klopp said: “If a player is not vaccinated at all then he is a constant threat for all of us. Maybe we would have to find different scenarios.
“He would have to change in a different dressing room, he would have to eat in a different dining room, he would have to sit in a different bus, he would have to drive in a different car: from an organisational point of view, it gets really messy.”
The clubs may decide to scrap the staggered winter break at the end of January and also play during the international break in the second week of February. They are also opposed to releasing players for the African Cup of Nations. This could involve up to 38 EPL players including Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Naby Keita (Guinea) and Sadio Mane (Senegal).