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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Explained: Why UK’s Covid-19 spike has triggered a call to halt the EPL

Since Christmas, nearly 50 matches across the English leagues have been canceled on account of a rise in cases of coronavirus.

Written by Shashank Nair , Edited by Explained Desk | Updated: January 6, 2021 8:39:10 am
english premier league, epl, covid 19, indian expressLiverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri is ready to come on as a substitute for Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park stadium in Newcastle, England, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (Peter Powell/ Pool via AP)

Despite a rise in coronavirus cases in Britain and among tested English Premier League players and staff, a new strain of the virus and growing calls to temporarily halt the games from managers – the English FA has yet to consider the idea of a break in the season.

What has happened?

Since Christmas, nearly 50 matches across the English leagues have been canceled on account of a rise in cases of coronavirus. In a test conducted by the EPL last week, a record 18 cases turned up with five of those cases at Manchester City. It led to the Citizens’ game against Everton being called off. It was followed by Fulham’s game against Tottenham – which was set to take place on December 30 – to also be called off.

What is the Covid situation in Britain?

In the last three days the Covid situation in Britain has taken a jump with over 50,000 fresh cases in a day. On December 31st, the cases hit a record of 55,892. Britain has also seen a new transmission of the Covid strain hit areas like London. The strain is said to be 70% more transmissible and according to scientists has resulted in a higher rate of hospitalisation.

Initially the government had allowed some clubs in certain regions to bring a small section of fans back to the stadiums but with the burgeoning numbers and the new strain, the return of fans has been cast aside.

What has been the response of the English Football League (EFL) and EPL?

The Premier League and EFL revealed that they have yet to discuss whether a break in the season is required with clubs as of now. The EPL said they had doubled testing and were confident in their protocols to ensure that football continues.

Have any managers spoken against the decision of the English FA?

West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce was one of the first managers to speak about the decision – or lack of it – made by the EPL.

“Everyone’s safety is more important than anything and when I hear variant virus transmits 70% quicker, we can only do the right thing which would be to have a circuit breaker,” the West Brom manager said in a post-match conference.

He then added, “I’m 66 and the last thing I need to do is catch Covid. Probably players will overcome it but it’s more difficult for someone like me, so I’m very concerned for myself and football in general. We had one positive this week, it seems to be creeping around no matter how hard we try. If [a circuit breaker] helps let’s do it and let the season run a little longer when we get through it.”

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What is a circuit breaker?

Allardyce mentioned a ‘circuit breaker’, which is essentially nothing more than a strict set of rules kept in mind to bring the number of cases of a region down. The difference between a circuit breaker and a lockdown is that the circuit breaker is announced with a set time frame in mind.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was one of the EPL managers who was not in favour of the season being interrupted with a circuit breaker. Sighting the ability of his own club and players to follow the rules, Solskjaer said that the circuit breaker would cause an unnecessary delay to the season and the remainder of the games would somehow have to be adjusted later, causing even more problems.

What about administering vaccines?

According to a report in the Independent, the Premier League had ruled out sourcing a private supply of vaccinations and recent developments had not changed the thought process on that decision. The report stated that one of the reasons why the league hasn’t tried to secure their own private supply is because the demand for the vaccinations far outweigh the supply and most governments around the world have put in orders for the vaccines even though they are yet to be produced.

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