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Updated: COVID-19 cases in football close to double figures

COVID-19 cases in Maltese football are close to reaching double figures, the Times of Malta can reveal.

On Wednesday morning,  Sta Venera Lightnings had announced that a player forming part of their first-team squad had tested positive but in the last few hours, more cases have emerged.

Two more players from Premier League side Balzan have also tested positive while Tarxien Rainbows said that a member of their U-17 squad also had COVID-19.

Added to that, the Times of Malta can reveal that in the last two weeks there were also positive cases at Qrendi FC, Swieqi United, Ta’ Xbiex, and Valletta U-17 team.

So far, Balzan are the only Premier League side to have cases in their first-team squad with Health Authorities on Wednesday announcing that the number of players infected has now risen to three after two more players where included in their daily briefing.

The Times of Malta contacted Malta FA vice-president Matthew Paris who confirmed that the local governing body of football on Wednesday will be discussing the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in football.

However, he said that it was still too early to say whether the National Leagues will get underway next month.

“The Malta FA Council will convene on Wednesday and a number of decisions have to be taken to ensure the safety of all amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Paris said.

“At the moment, talking about whether the 2020-21 National Leagues will kick off as scheduled is too early to say. At the moment, our priorities are the upcoming participation of our clubs in the UEFA club competitions and Malta’s matches in the UEFA Nations League.

“UEFA has issued a medical protocol for each of its competitions and we are making sure that everything will be in place to ensure we have no problems.”

When MFA competitions were suspended last March the decision was based on a ruling issued by health authorities to stop all sporting competitions. At the moment, the authorities have yet to take a position on the matter for the upcoming season.

It is understood that the Consultative Committee set up by the Malta FA recently to deal with health matters, are looking at different scenarios and protocols linked to football competitions and activities.

Dr Paris said that during Wednesday’s meeting the MFA Council will discuss a number of regulations that will be put in place in case the championships will face a similar scenario like last March when football was suspended due to the COVID-19.

“We will be proposing a set of regulations in case championships are halted due to a force majeure,” the MFA vice-president said.

“In a few words, if the championship is stopped with less than 25 per cent of matches to be played the championships will be assigned. If there are more than a quarter of a championship to be played, titles will not be assigned even if there is a mathematical certainty.

“And we are doing this before the start of the competitions so that everyone will have a clear picture.

“Added to that we will also be proposing a set of regulations that will see clubs or players facing disciplinary action if they fail to report a COVID-19 case.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Sta Venera Lightnings confirmed that they had stopped their pre-season training after one of their first-team players had tested positive  and all members of their first-team squad was put into isolation until all members underwent a swab test.

“The Sta Venera Lightnings Committee would like to confirm that a player registered with the club was found positive for COVID-19,” the National Amateur League club said.

“The club committee together with the technical staff would like to confirm that the player has last attended a training session was on Friday, August 7. The first symptoms on the player came out on Saturday, August 8. This positive case does not form part of the cluster from the Sta Venera feast.

“At the moment, the club has ordered that all forms of training at the club will be stopped with immediate effect, as well as we are in constant communication with the Health Authorities so that every individual, both forming part of the technical staff as well as the first-team squad will undergo a swab test.

“We would like to inform you that this player was at any time in contact with any young player from the club’s nursery.”

The Lightnings also said that they have invested in Sanitization Mobile Stations that have been installed around the pitch and in the dressing rooms to ensure a safe environment at the club.

“The club committee also confirms that this week we have installed Sanitization Mobile Stations around our training pitch as well as in the dressing rooms,” the club said.

“Added to that, all equipment used is being cleaned with adequate liquids while in the next hours our dressing rooms will fumigated.

“Last week, we have also instructed the players against taking any showers in the dressing rooms.”

Tarxien Rainbows also issued a statement to report a case in their U-19 squad.

“The club would like to announce that training is temporarily suspended until further notice,” Tarxien Rainbows said in a statement.

“This is a decision taken with a sense of responsibility in the last few hours after one of our U-19 players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“Therefore, our training ground will remain closed so that in the coming hours it will be fumigated.

“This decision has been taken in the interest of everyone.”

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