Watford’s trip to face Burnley tonight has become the latest Premier League match to be called off following a Covid outbreak.
Just three hours before Claudio Ranieri’s side were due to play a crucial game in the battle to avoid relegation at Turf Moor it was confirmed there had been an outbreak in Watford’s squad.
Manchester United saw their game with Brentford on Tuesday postponed while there have been outbreaks at Tottenham, Aston Villa, Leicester and Brighton in recent weeks. Norwich also had one case of a player affected.
Burnley-Watford becomes the third Premier League match to be postponed this season to a Covid outbreak. United at Brentford and Tottenham against Brighton were the other fixtures.
A Premier League statement read: ‘It is with regret the Premier League Board has postponed Burnley FC’s home fixture against Watford FC, due to be played this evening (Wednesday 15 December) at 7.30pm.
‘The decision was taken following guidance from medical advisers due to an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak within Watford’s squad. As a result, the club has an insufficient number of First Team players available to fulfil the match.
Claudio Ranieri’s Watford became the latest Premier League side to suffer a Covid outbreak
Watford were due to kick off at Burnley in three hours before the call was made to postpone
‘The Premier League understands this decision will disappoint and frustrate fans who were due to attend this evening’s game and apologises for the inconvenience and disruption caused at such short notice.
‘In considering any application to postpone, the Board considers a range of sporting and medical factors. Each decision is taken on a case-by-case basis with everyone’s health of utmost importance
‘In light of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, the Premier League has reintroduced Emergency Measures. These include protocols such as more frequent testing, wearing face coverings while indoors, observing social distancing and limiting treatment time.’
Soon after news of the latest postponement, Millwall confirmed that their Sky Bet Championship clash with Preston North End on Saturday is off due to a Covid outbreak.
‘Millwall Football Club can confirm that its Sky Bet Championship match against Preston North End this Saturday 18 December has been postponed,’ a statement on their website read.
‘This is due to a significant number of positive COVID-19 cases within the playing squad and support staff.
‘At present, only a minority of those who have returned positive test results are experiencing any sort of symptoms and they are very mild at worst. The decision to postpone has been made following extensive dialogue with the EFL, Public Health England and the club’s safety advisory group.’
The Premier League have looked to act swiftly in the last seven days to respond to the Omicron threat.
The league announced a record 42 positive tests across two testing cycles last week. They anticipate the number of cases will continue to rise and matches to be thrown in jeopardy.
Fans had already travelled for the game and the Premier League apologised for the late call
Manchester United returned positive tests and their game vs Brentford on Tuesday was off
On Tuesday Premier League clubs agreed to test players up to nine times a week in an attempt to hold back the tidal wave of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant and prevent a shut down in the top flight.
The transmissibility of the new variant and its prevalence among younger people poses a significant challenge to football clubs, where staff and players work in close proximity.
Mindful of the risk, the Premier League has sought to stay ahead of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described on Monday as a tidal wave of Covid cases about to wash across the country.
As well as demanding all clubs return to last season’s strict protocols involving mask-wearing and social distancing at stadiums and training grounds, the Premier League has now asked clubs to adopt daily lateral flow tests for each player and two PCR tests each week.
Government advisor Jonathan Van-Tam has repeatedly encouraged players to get jabbed
Richarlison has received his jab but Premier League clubs have lagged in vaccination battle
There is a fear that a return to emergency protocol may not be enough to prevent further postponements with the transmissibility of the Omicron variant so fast.
The Government and its scientific advisers have made clear that significant protection from Omicron requires double vaccination and a booster jab.
However, Premier League clubs remain dependent upon tests to prevent Omicron forcing further postponements because players have been slow to take up vaccines.
The current level of vaccination among top flight players is unknown, but the last figures to be released were in October when 68 per cent had received a double vaccination and 81 per cent had had a single dose.
The rate of vaccination picked up sharply in October following a concerted campaign by the league and clubs. It saw the proportion of double-jabbed players leap from one third to two thirds that month.