LONDON (AP) — Coronavirus outbreaks at Leeds and Watford have led to two Premier League matches scheduled for Sunday being postponed in the latest disruption to the competition caused by cases rising in squads.
Leeds was due to travel to Liverpool and Watford was set to play at Wolverhampton as part of the Boxing Day program that still features seven games.
The Premier League has now called off 12 matches due to coronavirus issues in two weeks, with players having to isolate after testing positive or if they are unvaccinated and a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
“The league is aware that the decision to postpone these two matches will disappoint supporters and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games,” the Premier League said in a statement on Thursday.
Games are also being wiped out lower down the leagues, with six of Sunday’s 10 matches in the second-tier Championship postponed.
The Leeds training ground has been closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with five new positive cases among the squad and staff reported on Thursday.
“All of the cases we have experienced are asymptomatic which we believe is due to our high vaccine take-up,” Leeds said. “The positive cases, combined with our well-documented injury issues, means that we would not have enough recognized first-team players to meet the Premier League requirements for the fixture.”
Watford told the league that with players coming out of isolation it expects to be able to play West Ham on Tuesday.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Britain, where the omicron variant is now dominant, have surged by almost 60% in a week.
After recording a record 90 positive cases last week, the Premier League urged players to get vaccinated with 16% yet to receive a single dose. While more than 90% of players in the Italian and Spanish leagues have been fully vaccinated, the Premier League said Monday that only 77% of its players were doubled jabbed.
While Serie A is on a planned winter break, Serie B has postponed two entire rounds of games scheduled for Sunday and Wednesday following a series of positive cases that resulted in two matches being postponed in the previous round. The second division will resume Jan. 13.
The final matches of the year in Serie A were played Wednesday, with the next games scheduled for Jan. 6. One game that was scheduled for Tuesday, Udinese-Salernitana, was not played.
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By Rob Harris, The Associated Press