Football, cricket, tennis, and NBA became the first major sports to be affected by the new Covid-19 variant, prompting fears of renewed travel restrictions and disrupted events just as they were returning to normal nearly two years into the pandemic.
NBA teams are down to mere skeletons
The numbers in the NBA indeed keep getting higher and may continue that way for the foreseeable future. Expanded testing, agreed to earlier this month, went into place Sunday for players who have yet to receive their booster shots.
Almost all NBA teams are dealing with at least one known case of virus-related issues now, and some teams are down to mere skeletons of what an NBA team should look like. Toronto played Cleveland on Sunday with eight players, four of them hardship signings brought on because 10 Raptors are currently in the protocols.
Clubs struggling to field team in Premier League
The Premier League has revealed a record 103 players and staff tested positive for the coronavirus in the period from December 20 to 26. Just a week ago, the English top-flight set a new high since testing began in 2020 with 90 positive cases. That mark has now been beaten as the Omicron variant takes its toll. So far in December, 15 Premier League games have been called off, while the three divisions below the top tier have been decimated by postponements.
Liverpool’s game against Leeds, Watford’s trip to Wolves and Burnley against Everton were all cancelled before their scheduled Boxing Day fixtures.
Arsenal’s home match against Wolves on Tuesday was axed on Sunday after an increase in case numbers among Wolves’ squad. Leeds’ game with Aston Villa, scheduled for December 28, was also postponed on Sunday due to Leeds’ continued Covid and injury issues.
Newcastle United are “dangerously close” to being unable to field a full team for their Premier League trip to Everton on Thursday, manager Eddie Howe said. Newcastle were only able to name eight substitutes, including two goalkeepers, instead of the maximum nine for Monday’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United, with the squad depleted due to injuries and Covid-19 cases.
Despite the rise in Covid cases and several postponements, Premier League chiefs last week opted against halting the season despite calls from some top-flight bosses for a ‘circuit breaker’
Surge of Covid-19 cases in England’s Ashes party
The spectre of Covid-19 continues to loom over the Ashes after the number of positive cases in England’s touring party rose from four to six during the third Test in Melbourne. However, all players from the Australian and England cricket teams have returned negative tests for Covid-19 just hours after four non-playing members of England’s camp tested positive via a rapid test. After play ended on the second day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, all players were sent for testing.
The outbreak was first detected on Boxing Day evening – 24 hours after the 60-strong tour party celebrated Christmas in a restaurant – when one of the family members travelling with the England team began to experience symptoms of the virus. This was then followed by positive results for one additional family member and two from England’s coaching staff, with a third initially deemed a close contact.
The England team’s support staff and their family members who tested positive after PCR tests are in isolation. The start of play was delayed on Monday when the England team bus was held at its hotel while additional rapid testing was completed.
Covid scare looms on Australian Open
Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov has tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Sydney ahead of the Australian Open, which in itself is in doubt now. Shapovalov played last week at the World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he beat 20-times major winner Rafa Nadal in the third-place playoff match.
Nadal, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and Tunisian Ons Jabeur all tested positive for the virus after playing the tournament.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic’s journey to Australia remains uncertain after he reportedly pulled out of the ATP Cup. The Victoria state government had earlier made it clear that nobody – player, staff, officials, volunteers, fans – would be allowed to enter Melbourne Park without proof of being fully vaccinated. Djokovic however has been adamant in keeping his status disclosed, which is what has put his participation at the events in Australia in doubt.