COVID forces players to self-isolate as calls for vaccination mount

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  • Nine Premier League games postponed so far
  • Key players dismissed from COVID in top teams
  • North American leagues update COVID protocols
  • Rugby weekend between French and English clubs off

December 17 (Reuters) – Global sport continued to recover from the surge in COVID-19 cases on Friday, with politicians urging athletes to lead by example by not avoiding the vaccine, while international competitions were affected as countries introduced travel restrictions.

As Europe’s top soccer leagues prepare to step down for a short winter break, the English Premier League is looking to forge ahead in full steam during the busy holiday season. So far, nine scheduled matches have been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Only half of the weekend’s matches will go through although many managers have asked for clarification on the match postponement threshold and questioned whether the integrity of the competition was at stake with so many missing players.

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The Premier League only grants a deferral if a club has fewer than 14 players available, with the board considering requests on a case-by-case basis.

Title contenders Chelsea and Liverpool had key players missing on Thursday while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola canceled his press conference on Friday after rendering a COVID test inconclusive.

Tottenham Hotspur, who have had 13 cases among players and staff, have postponed three games across all competitions and manager Antonio Conte has warned that the workload and game congestion for players who have just recovered from COVID could be detrimental.

“You can’t give them the same workload as the other players… If you want it all very soon you risk injury,” Conte said as Spurs return to action on Sunday, when they host Liverpool, for the first time since December 5.

HESITANCE TO VACCINE

While Conte was concerned for the well-being of his players, the Italian admitted he couldn’t force them to get vaccinated in a league where only 68% of players are doubly vaccinated, according to the most recent data. of October.

So far, the Premier League and lower divisions – with 19 English Football League weekend games postponed – have been badly hit with several outbreaks at clubs as Britain reported a new record on Friday of 93,045 COVID-19 infections.

A quarter of EFL players said they had no plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine and UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston urged them to overcome their reluctance as it was their responsibility social.

“The overwhelming majority of those seriously ill with COVID in hospital are not vaccinated. The most important thing anyone – including footballers – can do to protect themselves, their colleagues and loved ones is to get vaccinated and to receive a reminder, ”he said. .

The vaccine data in England stands in stark contrast to that of Italy where 98% of the top Serie A players have received two doses.

Outbreaks in North American sports leagues have also forced the NFL and NBA to postpone games and update their COVID protocols for the holiday season with individuals required to mask themselves regardless of their vaccination status. Read more

The NHL, which agreed to a hiatus in its schedule to make way for players to compete in the Winter Olympics in February, postponed its 11th game of the season on Friday. Read more

The NHL has until Jan. 10 to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics without financial penalty and could withdraw if COVID-19-related disruptions require games to be rescheduled during the Olympic window.

TRAVEL BORDERS

Less than two hours after a Champions Cup rugby match between the Ospreys and Racing 92 was canceled due to a number of positive COVID cases on the Welsh side, European Professional Club Rugby has postponed all the weekend matches between French and British clubs.

Travel restrictions introduced by the French government made it difficult to meet commitments even as the country’s sports ministry sought exemptions in meetings with the government’s crisis staff.

The decision came a day too late for Leinster who was forced to forfeit Friday’s Champions Cup match in Montpellier despite having the players to complete the match after both clubs signaled new cases.

A full stop may not yet be on the agenda and Northampton Saints boss Chris Boyd was hopeful the sport could fight the wave of Omicron variants “for the sake of the public’s sanity.”

“This is what it is and I hope (…) we can continue to entertain within the confines of security around COVID,” he said.

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Report by Rohith Nair in Bangalore; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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