The PFA has urged its members to remember the “vital importance” of following coronavirus and club protocols as the United Kingdom enters a third period of national lockdown.
On Monday, the UK government confirmed England would be placed under strict restrictions as COVID-19 infection rates and deaths continue to rise.
Though vaccines are starting to be rolled out to vulnerable groups, the UK recorded 62,322 new cases and 1,041 deaths on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Premier League confirmed that 40 players and staff members – a new high – had tested positive for the virus over the most recent two rounds of testing, up from 18 the previous week.
Three matches in England’s top flight were postponed over the festive period, while a number of EFL games have also been unable to take place.
With elite sport allowed to continue despite the new lockdown regulations, the Premier League has insisted it has full faith in its protocols, while the EFL announced on Wednesday it would introduce a twice-weekly testing regime, starting from January 11.
However, amid the rise in cases and deaths, there have been high-profile examples of players breaking coronavirus rules over recent weeks.
Manchester City, who have been hit by an outbreak within their squad, launched an investigation into reports of Benjamin Mendy hosting a party on New Year’s Eve that included guests from outside his household.
Meanwhile, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho was disappointed to learn of a Christmas gathering which saw Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso breach regulations, with West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini also in attendance.
I want to apologise for a bad mistake I made over Christmas and I take full responsibility for my actions. I know people have made difficult sacrifices to stay safe and I should be setting a better example.
— Manuel Lanzini (@manulanzini) January 2, 2021
The PFA has released a statement, which read: “Following the announcement of a third national lockdown, the PFA would like to reinforce the message that players must follow the current COVID-19 rules and club protocols as a matter of vital importance.
“In a close-knit football environment, the ramifications of any rule breaches are potentially hugely damaging for fellow players, clubs and the game as a whole.
“It is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved that the vast majority of matches have gone ahead as scheduled and the risks to players, staff and their families have been well managed and kept to a minimum.
“Although prospects are brighter due to the vaccine’s imminent rollout, players must continue to take the lead and act responsibly and professionally.
“Between now and the end of the season, we ask that you continue to take personal responsibility and follow the lockdown rules, without exception.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that players have a unique position to inspire and influence society positively.
“Your compliance with the national restrictions sets the right example to millions of fans and young people. Following the rules is also the best way to protect your loved ones, your colleagues and their families from harm.”
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