Premier League confident matches will continue despite impending second UK lockdown but will wait until Government sets out their plans to give green light
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering a month-long second lockdown
- It follows a rise in Covid-19 infections across the country in recent weeks
- The announcement of a second lockdown could come as soon as Monday
- But the Premier League is confident its season will be able to continue
- English top-flight successfully and safely restarted last season after lockdown
- Latest Premier League testing results revealed two positives from 1,609 samples
The Premier League is confident any second Covid-19 lockdown won’t interrupt the season but will wait until the Government unveils full details before making a final decision.
No decision has been taken yet as to whether professional sport will have to be halted as was the case when the first lockdown was announced in March.
The Premier League is confident the season would be able to continue in the event of a second national Covid-19 lockdown. Pictured is Sunday’s Manchester United vs Chelsea match
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering a month-long second national lockdown in England to tackle a spike in new coronavirus infections
Premier League sources told Sportsmail they are confident their Covid-19 safety protocols and testing regimes are robust enough for games to continue if a second national lockdown is announced.
However, it is likely any second lockdown will set back the return of supporters to stadiums in the Premier League well into next year.
Reports on Friday night suggested a new ‘stay at home’ order from the Government – with the exception of schools, colleges and universities – could be announced as early as Monday.
It could see the closure of non-essential shops as well as bars and restaurants plus curbs on travel, with the public encouraged to work from home.
However, the Premier League, which followed rigorous protocols to safely restart the 2019-20 season in June amid the pandemic, are optimistic the current campaign will be able to carry on as planned.
Matches in the Premier League have been played out behind closed doors since June
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said this month he felt there is ‘no risk’ of the current season being suspended amid a lockdown
There is the possibility that clubs may have to step up testing of players and staff as an additional precaution.
The Premier League source pointed out that only two positive coronavirus tests were recorded from 1,609 samples from players and staff in the latest round of checks between October 19 and 25.
It follows comments from the league’s chief executive Richard Masters earlier this month that there was ‘no risk’ of a second pause to a Premier League season in the event of another lockdown.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated almost 52,000 people were catching the virus every day and one in every 100 people in the country were infected with Covid-19 a week ago
Separate data from King’s College London predicted England has around 32,000 cases per day and claimed infections are rising ‘steadily’ and ‘have not spiralled out of control’
Lockdown 2.0: What the new round of restrictions could look like
Boris Johnson is set to announce a second national lockdown to tackle the resurgent virus. Nothing has been confirmed, but some specific measures are likely.
Schools and universities
Schools are expected to remain open. The Prime Minister has said that children’s education is a ‘national priority’ and signalled shutting them again would be a last resort. The Government also took a hammering over the summer exams fiasco so is unlikely to cause another education row.
Universities are also likely to remain open, although this is less certain as there have been infection spikes on campuses.
Pubs and restaurants
Government sources suggested pubs and restaurants will be likely to close. Tier 3 pubs have already been ordered to shut unless they serve food, and it is expected this will be tightened further across the nation. Prof Chris Whitty previously suggested it would be a trade-off to keep schools open.
A source claimed to the Times that non-essential shops would be told to shut. But the Government is unlikely to order essential shops such as supermarkets from selling non-essential items, following the uproar in Wales.
People will likely be urged not to travel unless essential. Tier 3 guidance already advises against travelling outside your area.
In Tier 3, two households are not allowed to mix socially in any indoor setting or private outdoor settings, including a private garden. If the rest of the country is brought up to this level, it would see household mixing socially indoors banned, unless you have formed a support bubble.
Masters said the English top-flight’s ‘Project Restart’ was a ‘proven model that works’ and there was no suggestion of the season being suspended just seven games in.
The Premier League, like all sport across the UK, went into a three month hiatus after the match between Leicester City and Aston Villa on March 9.
The league finally restarted behind closed doors on June 17 with the season successfully played out to its conclusion.
The 2020-21 season also started successfully amid a tight testing regime and Covid-19 safety protocols that have so far prevented an outbreak of cases at any top club.
Players or staff who do test positive are quickly taken into a period of isolation to prevent the virus – which can often by symptomless – spreading around a club.
But the second lockdown will come as a setback to the campaign to return football supporters to stadiums.
A number of pilot events with crowds of 1,000 spectators were held at EFL matches in September but the Government put a stop to plans for further events.
Johnson’s decision to return to a national lockdown came after scientists from the SAGE committee presented No 10 with bleak figures showing Covid-19 is spreading ‘significantly faster’ than even their original ‘worst-case scenario’ projections.
Modelling presented to ministers forecast a peak of 4,000 daily deaths before the New Year if no further measures were imposed.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly slapped down calls to impose an England-wide ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, preferring to introduce tiered restrictions to certain areas.
But he is now expected to u-turn with an announcement expected on Monday with restrictions beginning on Wednesday and potentially lasting until December 1.
There are three scheduled rounds of Premier League fixtures during this time frame either side of an international break.
The UEFA Nations League fixture between Belgium and England on November 15 has been switched from the capital Brussels to Leuven due to a 10pm curfew in the city.
Belgium is among a number of European countries returning to strict restrictions and lockdowns in an effort to stop a second wave of the deadly virus.
France and Germany were among other European countries to return to tighter measures last week and now England is set to follow suit.