As expected and predicted pretty much from the start of the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases as we head into winter is on the rise all around Europe (and other places like much of the USA as well), and the trend in the “elite sports” world of the Premier League is no different either, be that inside or outside the semi-permeable bubble of the competition itself.
As confirmed by the Premier League, the latest round of testing has identified more positive cases than any round of testing has ever done, be that this season or during Project Restart in the summer. And the numbers look even worse considering that a reduced number of subjects were tested due to the international break. Only 1207 tests were carried out, the second lowest number this season and the second lowest since the frequency of testing was cut in half to once weekly halfway through the summer.
And yet, a record 16 positive cases were identified last week, all of whom must isolate for at least 10 days. These numbers don’t include the likes of Kai Havertz, who was flagged by UEFA’s testing two weeks ago (ahead of Chelsea’s match against Rennes).
16 positive Covid tests from 1,207 @premierleague players and club staff tested 9-15 Nov inc. Must self-isolate for 10 days.— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) November 16, 2020
What these numbers also don’t include is the frankly alarming number of cases being seen at various national teams, all of whom are having players from various leagues and bubbles commingling for games of dubious importance (and that’s putting it kindly).
We’ve seen cases already at Croatia, Brazil, France, Ukraine, Italy, just to name a few, with some players flagged only after days spent training with their teammates, and some getting literally pulled out of games that were in progress. Given that the symptoms don’t always show up right away (2-5 days is pretty normal), and given that the tests aren’t foolproof (some kinds less so than others, even), it would not be at all surprising to see an uptick in cases as players start returning to their clubs this week — even if they are bound to be tested early and often, perhaps as soon as landing at the airport.
While the vast majority (if not every single one) of the players who might get infected with novel coronavirus will get through it without any problems (if symptoms, even), if the league were unable to prevent or contain an outbreak, we could be risking the cancelation of the season — especially as the rest of the real world goes into (various levels of) lockdown once again.
And that would indeed be a shame, especially with a vaccine (or two) now probably not too far off (thought still months away).