By Mark Gleeson
World sport was again hit by COVID-19 infections on Thursday with soccer and rugby matches called off, a cricket series cancelled and holiday action in North America under threat.
A wave of new infections, driven by the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, suggested more postponements and cancellations will follow as sporting codes warily await the impact.
Manchester United’s home match against Brighton & Hove Albion became the fifth Premier League game postponed since Sunday but league officials intend to continue with the fixture schedule where safely possible as new COVID-19 cases in Britain hit a record high for the second day running on Thursday.
The Premier League found a record 42 cases nL1N2SY19O of COVID-19 among players and staff at various clubs this week, leading Brentford manager Thomas Frank to suggest all this weekend’s games should be postponed as cases “are going through the roof”.
With 13 new positive cases at his club, Frank told a news conference: "To postpone this round would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain."
Amid a multitude of postponements in England's lower leagues, the Football League (EFL) on Thursday ordered clubs to implement enhanced safety protocols for training, with social distancing and restrictions on the use of indoor facilities, manual therapy and group travel.
LaLiga leaders Real Madrid were struck a blow when four more players tested positive nL1N2T121M on Thursday to add to Luka Modric and Marcelo, who had been forced into quarantine some 24 hours earlier. But Sunday’s home game against Cadiz is going ahead.
Rugby’s European Champions Cup has also been hit with Montpellier’s game at home to Leinster the latest to be postponed over COVID cases in both squads, while Welsh club Ospreys suggested their trip to Racing 92 in Paris could also be off with at least seven positive cases in their camp.
Over the last three days, the National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association have faced a surge in positive tests, with more expected on Thursday, forcing players into league mandated COVID-19 protocols nL1N2T121U and the postponement of games.
The holiday season across the United States and Canada is usually filled with sporting action but, with the coronavirus spreading through locker rooms, fans may not see all their favourite players.
Australia captain Pat Cummins nL1N2T1010 had to miss the second Ashes cricket test, which started in Adelaide on Thursday, after a close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
West Indies' tour of Pakistan was cut short nL1N2T11P6 after the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the touring party rose to nine.
A third T20 international went ahead on Thursday but the three-match One Day International series to follow is now off.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said he was self-isolating nL1N2T1235 at home in Monaco after testing positive. The news came after Sunday’s conclusion of the Formula One season.