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Coronavirus: Arsenal players in self-isolation as Man City match postponed

14:16 | 11/03/2020

Manchester City's English Premier League home match against Arsenal on Wednesday (Mar 11) has been postponed because players from the London club will be isolated for 14 days after contact with the owner of Greek club Olympiacos, who has tested positive for COVID-19.

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Alexandre Lacazette (C) scored the only goal as Arsenal beat West Ham 1-0 AFP/Ian KINGTON

It is the first Premier League match to be called off due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following the news that Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis had contracted the virus, Arsenal confirmed that an unspecified number of unnamed players met Marinakis after their Europa League tie on the 27 February and that those players are now in self-isolation.

The Premier League said in a statement: “Following medical advice, Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC consider it is necessary to postpone their fixture due to be played this evening to give time to fully assess the situation. The Premier League has therefore agreed that tonight’s game will be rearranged.”

Marinakis was seen on the pitch at the Emirates after Olympiakos’ Europa League victory, applauding the away fans after the full-time whistle had gone. Arsenal released a statement on Wednesday morning with more details on who exactly was directly exposed to Marinakis that night.

“We identified that a number of players met the Olympiakos owner immediately following the game,” read the statement. “The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing Covid-19 at extremely low. However, we are strictly following the government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact.

“As a result, the players are unavailable for tonight’s match against Manchester City and the Premier League has decided the game should be postponed. The players will remain at their homes until the 14-day period expires. Four Arsenal staff, who were sitting close to Mr Marinakis during the match will also remain at home until the 14 days are complete.”

Manchester City said the postponement was a "precautionary measure" and that information about rescheduling would be available in the coming days.

The threat of the coronavirus is leading to increased measures being taken across England and the continent. Chelsea’s Champions League match with Bayern Munich is to be played behind closed doors, as will multiple Europa League ties including Wolves, Manchester United and Rangers. Wolves have now condemned Uefa for not postponing their Europa League tie with Olympiakos on Thursday after the news of Marinakis’s condition became public.

French authorities said upcoming matches in Ligue 1 would be played behind closed doors. In Spain the same decision prompted the players’ union to call for matches to be suspended instead.

The German FA took the decision to cancel an international friendly with Italy. In Italy, where a suspension of competition is already in place, officials have been asked to come up with ways to finish the Serie A season – including deciding the title in a play‑off.

In England, meanwhile, a packed Anfield will host a Champions League tie against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night and this weekend’s Premier League fixtures are set to go ahead with no alteration.

English football’s approach, directed by government advice and described by some in the game as “keep calm and carry on”, is looking increasingly out of step with that of other countries. There are increasing fears for the viability of forthcoming matches and, by consequence, the entire league season./.

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VNF/CNA/The Guardian