The Premier League will continue despite the government’s decision on Saturday evening to enter a second period of national lockdown as the coronavirus crisis worsens. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the country will implement a four-week lockdown in an attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and protect the NHS from being overwhelmed. The Premier League was forced to postpone matches between March 9 and June 17 earlier this year to fall in line with government guidelines but the safety protocols and testing procedures that have been put in place will prevent another suspension. Asked if the Premier League can continue despite the new lockdown, the Prime Minister replied: ‘Yes to the Premier League, I think I can say with authority.’
Despite the success of ‘Project Restart’ over the summer and a largely seamless start to the new campaign, elite level football in England continues to be played behind closed doors. And although the 2020/21 campaign can continue without any disruption, the return of fans to stadiums has been pushed back yet again.
While the rate of transmission continues to rise across the country, clubs have been largely unaffected with only a handful of players, including the likes of Liverpool duo Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara, testing positive and forced into periods of quarantine. The impending restrictions will be introduced after midnight on Wednesday and remain in place until December 2. Johnson had previously resisted pressure to reintroduce nationwide restrictions, despite calls for a ‘circuit-breaker’ to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
But new data published on Friday suggested around 570,000 people per week are becoming infected with Covid-19 across England, prompting fresh calls from scientists for tougher restrictions.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey found cases ‘continued to rise steeply’ in the week ending October 23, with an estimated 568,100 people in households becoming infected. Scientific advisers at the top of Government believe it is now too late for a two-week national circuit-breaker to have enough of an effect and a longer national lockdown is needed to drive the reproduction number, or R value, of the virus below one.