EFL confirm new twice-weekly virus testing programme as PFA agree to fund swabbing for 72 clubs

File photo dated 12-09-2020 of A EFL Flag.

The EFL have agreed to introduce a new virus testing programme - Credit: PA

The EFL have confirmed the introduction of twice-weekly coronavirus testing for its clubs, starting from Monday January 11.

As noted by Ipswich manager Paul Lambert on a number of occasions, clubs in the EFL have been tested on a sporadic basis during the first four months of the season, with Lambert suggesting the Blues have been tested 'seven or eight' times.

Lambert is recovering after testing positive prior to Christmas, along with general manager Lee O'Neill, academy chief Bryan Klug and eight players as part of an outbreak at the club which led to two matches being postponed. In total, partly due to issues at Peterborough and then Fleetwood, the Blues' last four matches have been postponed due to the virus.

The Ipswich players were all swabbed on Tuesday as part of a pre-planned round of testing, with all of those tests coming back negative, with the new regular testing regime beginning next Monday.

It's been estimated each round of testing would cost the average club in the region of £4,000, taking the bill to £8,000 a week at a time when clubs have lost almost all of their income.

And now, after months of talks, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) has agreed to fund testing for its members, with the tests initially bought from the private sector.

An EFL statement reads: "Medical advice continues to support that following these protocols is the most successful route to mitigating against the spread of infection but given the emergence of a new strain of the COVID virus, it is acknowledged that additional testing where it is not currently happening may help with the early identification and isolation of asymptomatic individuals. 

"The tests have initially been procured from the private sector and will be fully funded by the PFA following discussions that have taken place with the EFL across the past 72-hour period."  

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: “We have repeatedly maintained that adhering to the stringent protocols implemented during the re-start last summer and then across all Clubs since the beginning of the season was going to be our best chance of beating the virus and to keep playing matches.

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“Only last week we took the decision to enhance these to further minimise risk, though with the new strain of the virus taking hold across parts of the country, it is now clear from our discussions with our medical advisors and public health officials that additional testing, operated in conjunction with strict protocols, may prove beneficial in the immediate short-term.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the PFA for their support in helping us to finalise a position on testing across all three divisions on a twice-weekly basis.  We will continue to review the situation and make any adjustments or changes as circumstances dictate with the health and well-being of our players and Club staff the overwhelming priority.”

File photo dated 28-04-2019 of Chief Executive of the PFA Gordon Taylor.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has agreed to fund the testing programme - Credit: PA

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: “In the light of the current increase in COVID-19 cases and the resulting further tightening of government regulations, the PFA and the EFL have agreed enhanced measures to help protect players, staff and their families.

“Football has provided temporary relief for many fans during the lockdown. PFA members, alongside millions of people, have worked hard and played a positive role throughout the pandemic.

“We believe that this comprehensive and expansive approach to testing will help support clubs and be an important factor in maintaining fixtures and ensuring that football can continue during this challenging period.”

The EFL’s medical advisors Dr Richard Higgins and Dr.Subhashis Basu added: “The emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 and the current speed at which the virus is spreading means we are going to have to be prepared to review and implement new practices to ensure we have appropriate measures in place at any given time. 

“Lateral flow testing is an important adjunct in our ability to identify infected individuals at an early stage, particularly those with high viral loads as is more common with this new variant, as these people are thought to be most infectious.

"In addition to hand hygiene, through consistently reinforcing good behavioural practices including physical distancing, wearing facial coverings indoors, reducing time spent in enclosed areas and improving building ventilation, we are taking the most effective steps to reduce further transmission.”

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