The Premier League will hold an emergency meeting on Friday morning to discuss future fixtures after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with the coronavirus, the league announced.
“In light of Arsenal’s announcement tonight confirming that their first-team coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League will convene an emergency club meeting tomorrow morning regarding future fixtures,” the league said in a statement on Thursday night.
“The Premier League will make no further comment until after that meeting.”
The Prem had announced just hours before that games would go on as scheduled this weekend despite leagues all over the world postponing and cancelling games as the coronavirus spreads. However, Arteta’s diagnosis and the subsequent decision to isolate members of the Arsenal squad, prompted a rethink.
– Coronavirus: Cancellations and reactions in sports
“While the Prime Minister advised that all sporting events should take place as normal for now, he also indicated that Government is considering banning major public events, like sporting fixtures,” the league said in the initial statement.
“We are therefore continuing to work closely with our clubs, Government, The FA, EFL and other relevant stakeholders to ensure appropriate contingency plans are in place as and when circumstances change.
“The welfare of players, staff and supporters is of paramount importance and we will continue to follow Public Health England guidelines thoroughly.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the UK will move to what he called the “delay” stage of his plan to combat the virus.
“We are considering banning major public events like sporting fixtures,” he said.
“The scientific advice is this has little effect on the spread — but it does place a burden on other public services.”
And Johnson’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said cancelling sporting events such as football matches is not a “major way to tackle this epidemic.”
“Of course there is a risk,” he said. “But on average one person infects two or three others.
“You therefore have a very low probability of infecting a large number of people in a stadium, or a rather higher probability of infecting people very close to you, and that means most of the transmission tends to takes place with friends and colleagues in close environments, not in the big environments.”
La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A, among others, have announced interruptions in play this week. While in other sports, the NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons while the wildly popular NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments have been cancelled for the first time in their history.
The Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, was the first Premier League game to be postponed. Meanwhile, three unnamed Leicester City players are in self-isolation after showing symptoms for the coronavirus, as well as Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy, according to ESPN sources.
COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus that has surged around the world in recent months.
The coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory diseases. Flu is caused by a different virus. There is no vaccine for coronavirus, though researchers are working on one and hope to begin testing soon.
Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are most at risk. The coronavirus spreads mainly through coughs and sneezes, though it also can be transferred from surfaces.
The best way to prevent infection is by frequent hand-washing, cleaning surfaces with regular household sprays and wipes, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.