Premier League sidelined by coronavirus

All English soccer matches including the Premier League have been suspended until April 4 due to the coronavirus.

The move, announced in an official statement on Friday morning, follows news that Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi have contracted the virus.

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Three Leicester players are also being tested, while Everton announced on Thursday its squad was in self-isolation after a player reported symptoms consistent with the virus.

Watford manager Nigel Pearson said one of his players was also awaiting test results.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, forcing the club to put the entire first team in self-isolation and for its Premier League match against Brighton at the weekend to be postponed.

Arsenal said the first-team squad, coaching staff and academy members were in quarantine “in line with government health guidelines” after coming in close contact with Arteta, who received a positive test for COVID-19 on Thursday evening.

“This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly,” Arteta said in an Arsenal statement that came minutes after the Premier League insisted games would be carrying on as usual this weekend.

“I will be at work as soon as I’m allowed.”

Arsenal’s head coach Mikel Arteta reacts.Source:AP

Arsenal said the positive test means “it is clear we will not be able to play some fixtures on their currently scheduled dates.”

Brighton then announced its match against Arsenal, scheduled for Saturday, had been called off.

“It’s absolutely essential the health and well being of individuals takes priority,”

Meanwhile, all matches in UEFA competitions, including the Champions League and Europa League, will not take place next week due to the coronavirus, the governing body announced.

“Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course,” it said.

Arsenal’s trip to Brighton on Saturday was immediately postponed following the news about Arteta and a blanket suspension of activity for at least one round of matches is now likely, sources say.

The Premier League would be joining its counterparts in Italy and Spain in suspending its season.

The German football league has also suggested suspending the Bundesliga and second division from next week until April 2.

In Switzerland, FIFA president Gianni Infantino met World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday to discuss the emergency.

The meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva, discussed football’s response to the virus pandemic and “what measures should sports governing bodies and administrators take in specific situations”.

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