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COVID plays havoc with world sport as infection rate surges


World sport was again hit by COVID-19 infections on Thursday with football 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 Unitedโ€™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 of COVID-19 among players and staff at various clubs this week, leading Brentford manager Thomas Frank to suggest all this weekendโ€™s games should be postponed as cases โ€œare going through the roof.โ€

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With 13 new positive cases at his club, Frank told a news conference: โ€œTo 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.โ€

Amid a multitude of postponements in Englandโ€™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.

La Liga leader Real Madrid was struck a blow when four more players tested positive on Thursday to add to Luka Modric and Marcelo, who had been forced into quarantine some 24 hours earlier. But Sundayโ€™s home game against Cadiz is going ahead.

Rugbyโ€™s European Champions Cup has also been hit with Montpellierโ€™s game at home to Leinster the latest to be postponed over COVID cases in both squads, while Welsh club Ospreys suggested its trip to Racing 92 in Paris could also be off with at least seven positive cases in its camp.

HOLIDAY SEASON

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 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 had to miss the second Ashes Test, which started in Adelaide on Thursday, after a close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. West Indiesโ€™ tour of Pakistan was cut short 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 at home in Monaco after testing positive. The news came after Sundayโ€™s conclusion of the Formula One season.

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