Town physio calls for EFL Covid plan to protect festive fixtures

Luke Chambers walks from the pitch with head physio Matt Byard after suffering what appeared to be c

Ipswich Town physio Matt Byard, right, has called for a Covid testing regime at EFL clubs - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town physio Matt Byard has called for regular Covid testing at EFL clubs in a bid to protect the festive fixture list as a wave of the Omicron variant of the virus sweeps the country.

The Premier League agreed earlier this week to implement daily lateral flow testing along with twice-weekly PCR tests after top tier games had to be called off due to the virus.

And this morning, Brentford boss Thomas Frank - whose side currently have 13 cases of the virus among players and staff - called for all Premier League games this weekend and next week's league cup ties to be postponed.

He said: "The Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs.

"Everyone is dealing with it and everyone has a problem at this moment in time.

"To postpone this round (of Premier League games) and the Carabao Cup would give everyone a week at least to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is fine and we break the chain at every club."

Physio Matt Byard consoles Jonathan Walters after he had pulled up with an Achilles injury. Pictu

Matt Byard, left, says testing is essential as the country battles a new variant of the disease - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Town saw multiple fixtures over the festive period scrapped last year - they didn't play from December 15 until January 9.

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And Byard says testing has to start in earnest now in the EFL.

"Omicron has changed things and we need to act accordingly," Byard told The Daily Mail. "I feel we are where we were 12 months ago.

"The experiences of last year tell me that we need to be testing as of this week to protect our Boxing Day fixtures and our New Year fixtures."

He added: "I would advocate testing now. I am sure the EFL, who receive advice from very, very good doctors, would be having similar thoughts to mine.

"The playing field has changed. We have a new variant; vaccination status isn't guaranteed. In order for us to fulfil our fixtures then illness surveillance above and beyond the symptom checker, as in routine daily lateral flow or twice-weekly lateral flows… is essential."

Though Town take extensive precautions - using two coaches to travel to games, dividing the squad by vaccination status and giving players individual hotel rooms - Byard fears that just one case could quickly decimate a side.

"The Premier League have a very comprehensive testing regime and yet as we have seen with Manchester United and Tottenham – these are large training staff, professional athletes, meticulous medical staff - they have gone from negative, two days later to multiple cases," he explained.

"It is probably naïve to imagine that in the EFL that operates in much smaller premises, much smaller changing facilities, that there isn't significantly greater risk of transmission in our environment.

"The transmissibility of this variant is such that (multiple cases) can occur in a very short period of time. The transmissibility seems to be so strong you can see why they have gone for daily lateral flow tests.

"In this age group it can be quite mild symptoms but transmissibility is very strong. It is very, very challenging."

The EFL are said to be holding discussions on the matter, with an announcement expected soon.


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