The number of coronavirus cases in the English Premier League has more than doubled, and fears the season will be halted are growing
- The English Premier League has seen the number of positive Covid-19 tests soar to record highs in its most recent round of testing.
- Cases in the league more than doubled from 18 in the previous round of testing, to 40 this time.
- There are now fears that the season will have to be paused.
- "We shouldn't be carrying on, mid-pandemic, just because the fixtures are hard to re-arrange, or because of the financial implications," a health professional told ESPN.
- Managers Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta are among a number of Premier League managers who have voiced their opposition to a potential circuit breaker.
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The English Premier League has seen the number of positive Covid-19 tests soar to record highs in its most recent round of testing, leading to fears the season will have to be paused.
A statement from the league on Tuesday revealed that 40 players club staff tested positive for the virus in the period between December 28 and January 3.
That is more than double the 18 cases recorded in the previous round of testing, and the highest number since the 2020/21 season began.
Players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate for a period of 10 days.
Three games in the English top flight were postponed during the month of December due to the coronavirus, while Burnley's match versus Fulham on January 3 was also suspended.
The Premier League has told ESPN it is not yet considering a circuit breaker like the one we saw in March to help stem the recent wave of positive tests.
It said in a statement Tuesday that it plans to play all fixtures as scheduled in the coming weeks.
"With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the League continues to have confidence in its Covid-19 protocols, fully backed by the Government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled," the league said in a statement.
While the league is publicly confident of remaining viable, health professionals believe carrying on is no longer an option.
"We shouldn't be carrying on, mid-pandemic, just because the fixtures are hard to re-arrange, or because of the financial implications," a source told ESPN.
"People's lives are at risk. With all of this, we need to ask why this sport is continuing. Small businesses are suffering badly, and I think football is at a moral crossroads."
A number of the league's managers have voiced their opposition to talks of a circuit breaker, however, including Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta.
"I think the competition can go on," said Klopp, according to The Guardian. "And it's also important it goes on. People want to watch it and, in this case, we are not part of society.
"We go to the training ground and stuff like that but usually we isolate. We try to do everything to keep the boys as safe as possible so I think we really can carry on. We all try to do our best to keep the competition going. I think it works well for everybody but I'm not a [medical] specialist and I will respect all the decisions made in the next few weeks."
Arteta, who was one of the first to test positive for the virus back in March 2020, said, according to The Mirror: "I think we have shown the system is working.
"In the last week or so something has happened and we will have more restrictions and more tests to try to be as efficient as we were before and we will see, but I think it can work and we can carry on."
While Arteta and Klopp are opposed, West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce expressed his support for some form of break.
"Everybody's safety is more important than anything else," he said late in December. "We can only do the right thing, which would be to have a circuit breaker."
The rise in cases across the Premier League comes soon after it emerged that a number of players from clubs around the league have broken Covid rules in recent weeks.
Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy was reported to have hosted a small party on New Year's Eve, while several Tottenham players attended a gathering with as many as 18 people over Christmas.
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