The Premier League may be halted by Covid as Manchester United v Brighton becomes the fifth match to be called off as the team was down to just seven fit players.
Three Chelsea players have tested positive for coronavirus making the Blues the latest Premier League club to see cases emerge among their playing squad – but Thursday night’s clash with Everton is still going ahead.
Leicester’s top flight clash with Tottenham, and Saturday matches between Sheffield Wednesday and Accrington and Crawley’s encounter with Oldham Athletic have all been called off on Thursday, with officials expecting many more to follow suit.
It comes after Sportsmail revealed reluctance among players to being vaccinated. At the start of October, only a third of all top-flight footballers had been double jabbed.
Sports fans have also claimed there were ‘no real checks’ being made on their vaccination status or negative lateral flow tests at London’s Emirates Stadium and Selhurst Park Stadium yesterday.
The large gatherings come after MPs approved mandatory Covid passes at sporting events with more than 10,000 fans under new ‘Plan B’ guidelines to tackle the rise in the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
Liverpool’s Champions League last-16 second leg game against Atletico Madrid at Anfield last year, just before the first lockdown, ‘led to 41 additional deaths’ due to coronavirus.
Football is bracing itself for more than a dozen requests for matches to be postponed this weekend amidst the Omicron surge.
The Omicron variant has led to a large increase of cases in the UK, with Wednesday seeing 78,610 people testing positive – the highest daily number since the pandemic began.
The Premier League may be halted by Covid as several Chelsea stars have now tested positive and Leicester v Tottenham has become the fourth match postponed in five days. Watford fans (above) travelled to Burnley only for their match to be postponed this week
Three Chelsea players have tested positive for coronavirus making the Blues the latest Premier League club to see cases emerge among their playing squad – but Thursday night’s clash with Everton is still going ahead
Chelsea already have Mateo Kovacic in isolation after he tested positive for Covid last week – with Thomas Tuchel’s plans serious disrupted for the Stamford Bridge clash.
Now, three more players have contracted the virus after the Blues took part in a full-contact training session on Wednesday.
Chelsea have re-tested the remainder of their squad this lunchtime and were relieved to discover the virus had not spread any further.
The new variant has affected the Premier League deeply, with several matches being cancelled due to an outbreak at multiple clubs.
Brentford’s clash at home Manchester United on Tuesday was postponed until the New Year after the visitors were forced to close down their training centre in the build-up to the match.
Meanwhile, Burnley’s match against Watford on Wednesday was called off two hours before kick-off after the Hornets announced an outbreak in their team.
Leicester applied to the Premier League once again on Thursday morning to postpone the match with Spurs, after both clubs saw appeals rejected earlier this week. The Foxes have also closed their training ground to deal with the outbreak.
The Premier League is holding daily briefings, while the League Managers’ Association is in regular dialogue with the top flight and EFL as managers seek clarity on a rapidly worsening situation.
While the Premier League and EFL wish for the campaign to continue, there is a growing belief among club medics that an enforced break is looking increasingly likely.
Burnley’s match against Watford on Wednesday was called off two hours before kick-off after the Hornets announced an outbreak in their team (pictured)
Chelsea already have midfielder Mateo Kovacic isolating after testing positive last week
HOW OMICRON HAS THE PREMIER LEAGUE ON EDGE
The Bees have 13 cases among players and staff – the club are now calling for a circuit-breaker shutdown to help clubs recover.
Will be without several players for Tottenham’s visit on Thursday due to Covid. Both clubs requested the game to be postponed but were rejected.
Case numbers are currently unknown but a large outbreak saw their game with Brentford postponed. They have also requested Saturday’s match with Brighton to be postponed.
Had request to have game with Wolves postponed rejected by the Premier League following an outbreak at the club. Graham Potter confirmed there were ‘three to four’ positive cases before the game.
Dean Smith is facing an anxious wait to discover the full extent of the outbreak at the club. Currently in discussions with the Premier League over Saturday’s clash with West Ham.
Saw the game with Burnley postponed just hours before kick-off. Case numbers currently unknown.
Spurs were the first Premier League club to be hit by the Omicron variant last week and saw games against Brighton and Rennes postponed after cases reached double digits among players and staff. Those who tested positive for the virus are expected to return in the next couple of days after completing their 10-day self-isolation period. Spurs also requested to have Thursday’s clash with Leicester postponed but were rejected.
After Brentford, the Blues became the latest club to be hit by a Covid outbreak, after it was confirmed ahead of their game with Everton that three more first-team players had tested positive for Covid, with Mateo Kovacic the first Chelsea player to get the virus this week.
One well-placed, senior official has said that they are expecting ‘at least 12 more’ requests for postponements.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank has already called for this week’s games to be called off and his voice is set to be joined by others across the game. The Bees have 13 cases among players and staff ahead of their trip to Southampton on Saturday.
It comes after Boris Johnson today denied imposing a ‘lockdown by stealth’ as Professor Chris Whitty faced a Tory backlash after telling the nation to restrict socialising in the run up to Christmas.
The Prime Minister said this morning that ‘we have got to be very cautious’ because of the spread of the Omicron variant but he insisted ‘we don’t want to make your choices for you about your social life, we are not closing things’.
Prof Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, sparked Tory fury last night when he used a Downing Street press conference to urge people to limit and prioritise their social contacts in the coming days.
Millions of Britons are now expected to be adjusting their festive plans in an attempt to ensure they can see their family on Christmas Day.
Mr Johnson last night stopped short of telling people to cancel their plans but called for caution while Prof Whitty went further as he said people should restrict socialising.
The comments triggered a ‘tsunami of cancellations’ for pubs and restaurants as many people are now voluntarily staying at home in a bid to avoid catching coronavirus. Anyone who tests positive from yesterday will have to isolate for 10 days, forcing them to miss festivities.
The hospitality industry has accused Mr Johnson of imposing a ‘lockdown by stealth’ and is demanding the Government urgently bring forward fresh financial support to help the sector survive.
Health Minister Gillian Keegan today said the Government is ‘not intending to make any more restrictions’ between now and Christmas Day.
But she said Mr Johnson ‘won’t hesitate’ to recall Parliament over the festive period if he believes he does need to bring in extra curbs amid growing fears that a Plan C could be rolled out immediately after Christmas.
MPs voted in favour of Mr Johnson’s Plan B measures of compulsory face masks and Covid passes for nightclubs and large venues on Tuesday evening but the PM suffered a huge Tory rebellion.
Prof Whitty reportedly held a call with a cross-party group of 80 MPs before the vote as he outlined the risks posed by Omicron, with Tory rebels saying his comments had actually boosted the rebellion.
One rebel told The Times that Prof Whitty had ‘helped our case’ because ‘he said that nothing we were voting on would alter the size of the peak of infections’.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has urged people to restrict socialising over the festive seasons – prompting Tory fury
Boris Johnson, pictured during a visit to a vaccination centre in Ramsgate today, has denied accusations from the hospitality industry that he has imposed a ‘lockdown by stealth’
Britain’s workforce stays at home: London’s roads fall to their quietest since SUMMER, train stations are almost empty and drinkers abandon city centres
Roads in London were the quietest they have been during the morning rush-hour on any term-time weekday since the summer today as city centres were left deserted by mounting numbers of Britons working from home.
The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital between 8am and 9am today was 49 per cent – the lowest figure for that period since the end of the summer holidays on September 3, excluding October half-term.
Today also brought the lowest term-time congestion level in the capital on a Thursday morning since July 22, which was three days after ‘Freedom Day’ when the UK’s third national Covid-19 lockdown officially ended.
The percentage represents the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flowing conditions. A 49 per cent level therefore means a 30-minute trip will take 15 minutes more than with no traffic.
Photographs showed major stations including Waterloo and London Bridge looking empty during rush hour today, while normally-bustling areas such as Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square were also very quiet.
It followed further doomsday warnings from Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty who claimed today that it was ‘entirely possible’ that number of daily hospital Covid-19 admissions could beat the peak of 4,583 set in January.
He told MPs: ‘I don’t want this to be seen as I’m saying this will happen. I’m just saying there’s a range of possibilities, but certainly the peak of just over 4,500 – 4,583 to be exact – people admitted at the absolute peak…
‘It is possible because this is going to be very concentrated that even if it is milder, because it’s concentrated over a short period of time, you could end up with a higher number than that going into hospital on a single day. That is entirely possible. It may be less than that. But I’m just saying that it’s certainly possible.’
Professor Whitty told MPs there were two caveats to this – one being that people could be staying in hospital for a shorter period because of their protection from prior vaccination, and fewer people may go into intensive care.
The latest coronavirus developments came as:
- Prof Chris Whitty called for ‘serious caution’ over a raft of promising data which suggests Omicron may cause milder disease;
- Boris Johnson angrily defended staff accused of hosting law-breaking parties in Downing Street during lockdown last year;
- The Prime Minister announced that children aged 12 to 15 will be offered their second jab from Monday to tackle a ‘tidal wave of Omicron’;
- But ministers refused to guarantee that schools will reopen after Christmas, amid fears of a return to mass remote learning in January;
- More than a quarter of Covid ‘patients’ currently occupying hospital beds are actually being treated for another condition, according to official data;
- Britain’s booster jab campaign is off to a storming start with a record 611,000 Covid jabs being given out in a single day yesterday;
- Public health chiefs and Royal Mail bosses announced plans to double the amount of lateral flow and PCR test deliveries in a bid to tackle the Covid test supply crisis.
Speaking during a visit to a vaccination centre in Ramsgate this morning, Mr Johnson said: ‘What we are saying and we are all saying the same thing is that Omicron is spreading very fast and we have got to be very cautious and that is why we are implementing Plan B but also making sure that we get everybody boosted as fast as we possibly can.
‘I think what Chris Whitty and I are saying, what we are all saying, is we don’t want to make your choices for you about your social life, we are not closing things.
‘But what we are saying is people should be cautious and they should think about their activities in the run up to Christmas.
‘Nobody wants to get Omicron and be unwell and be forced to isolate but the fastest route back to normality is for everybody to get boosted now.’
Told that hospitality firms are suffering a wave of cancellations and asked if he had imposed a ‘lockdown by stealth’, the PM said: ‘No because what we are saying is, this is very different from last year because what we have is the additional protection of the vaccines and the ability to test so if you want to do something, if you want to go to an event or a party then the sensible thing to do, if that is a priority, the sensible thing to do is to get a test and to make sure that you are being cautious.
‘But we are not saying that we want to cancel stuff. We are not locking stuff down. And the fastest route back to normality is to get boosted.’
Prof Whitty said last night that a rise in Omicron hospitalisations is ‘nailed on’ after cases hit a record high yesterday, telling a televised No 10 press briefing: ‘I think that what most people are doing is – and I would think this seems very sensible – is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to project those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them.’
And after weeks of refusing to admit Christmas plans could be under threat, Mr Johnson told the country to ‘think carefully’ before going out during the festive season.
The so-called Independent SAGE group of scientists and medics has called for an immediate 10-day ‘circuit-breaker’ shutdown, with bans on households mixing and the closure of hospitality firms.