Business as usual as continent enters second lockdown

Business as usual as continent enters second lockdown

LONDON • England will enter its second lockdown on Thursday, but unlike the restrictions in spring, elite sport will not be affected.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed the new restrictions over the weekend. They are set to be in place until Dec 2, although they may be extended depending on the healthcare situation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Premier League, which was halted for three months until June before resuming with no spectators, will carry on as normal.

Asked if top-flight football would continue, Mr Johnson said: “Yes to the Premier League.”

Extensive testing, safe distancing measures – not just at stadiums and in training but also while travelling – and other safety regulations like the use of temporary dressing rooms and the sterilisation of match balls have helped prevent a mass outbreak as seen at Italy’s Lazio.

In the latest round of tests from Oct 19 to 25, more than 1,600 players and staff were tested, with only two new positive cases found.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is confident the top flight can continue to keep players and staff safe even as the crisis worsens, with the United Kingdom the ninth country to cross the one million case mark. He said on Saturday: “It is obviously what we wanted (football to continue) and I think we proved we can keep the bubble safe.

“Everyone had cases, that is the time we are in, but we could isolate these cases pretty quickly to prevent spread… I’m happy we can continue.”

Identical health measures mean that tennis’ ATP Tour is going ahead with its flagship ATP Finals event, albeit behind closed doors.

The 50th anniversary edition of the tournament, which features the top eight men’s players, including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, will be held in London for the last time from Nov 15 to 22 before it moves to Turin, Italy for the next five years.

The Tour said: “We will continue to work with all relevant authorities, both at a national and local level, to ensure that all necessary measures are put in place to ensure the safety of all those involved in the tournament.”

Manchester United last month revealed they had modified Old Trafford so as to accommodate 23,500 physically distanced spectators.

Fans, however, will not be permitted back into stadiums at least until next year, according to The Athletic, with trial runs in England put on ice early last month.

Across Europe, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal and Austria go into lockdown for the second time this week, while Spain has enacted a midnight curfew.

It will, however, be business as usual for top-flight sporting competitions, including domestic football and European competitions like this week’s Champions League and Europa League.

But in line with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s enhanced regulations, the Bundesliga has been ordered to bar fans from attending again.

Since the start of the season, German clubs have been allowed to admit 20 per cent of their stadium capacity subject to the approval of local health authorities and if infections were below a seven-day incidence of 35. The experiment has been a success – no clusters were detected – and the 11,500 fans who watched Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 win over Freiburg on Oct 4 remains the highest single attendance this term.

Besides football and tennis, motor sport’s Formula One and golf’s European Tour are also pressing ahead with their seasons heading into the final stretch.

Just four events remain on the European Tour – three of them in South Africa – before next month’s finale in Dubai.

There is only one more F1 race to be held in Europe – next week’s Turkish Grand Prix – before the campaign concludes with three races in the Middle East.