La Liga clubs will be able to test players for COVID-19 next week as a first step towards a return for football in Spain.
The country’s Supreme Sports Council (CSD) confirmed on Thursday that the Ministry of Health had approved its protocol for a resumption of training for professional athletes.
The announcement followed a meeting of Spain’s task force for dealing with the impact of coronavirus in sport, including representatives from La Liga, the Spanish football federation, the players’ union (AFE) and other sporting bodies.
“Regarding tests for the detection of COVID-19, the council informed those present that medical staff from professional clubs will be able to carry it out,” the CSD said in a statement.
It comes after prime minister Pedro Sanchez outlined a four-stage process for a gradual relaxation of social distancing measures in Spain earlier this week, aiming to reach a “new normal” by the end of June.
La Liga had originally hoped to begin COVID-19 testing for players this week, but was forced to postpone them while awaiting authorisation from the health authorities.
That process is now expected to take place next week between Tuesday, May 5 and Thursday, May 7.
The protocol is yet to be published in full, but the CSD’s statement suggests that club doctors will only be able to administer tests by prescription and if players have displayed symptoms or been exposed to other positive cases.
That makes La Liga’s initial plan to test all players on an ongoing basis appear unlikely, at least initially.
Once testing has been carried out and results have been analysed, players will be allowed to begin training, individually, in club facilities.
The situation will be reassessed by the Health Ministry every two weeks to determine when the evolution of the pandemic allows a shift to training in small groups, followed by full training and then competitive matches.
La Liga was postponed indefinitely in March and Spain was put on lockdown as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
The country has seen over 213,000 confirmed cases and more than 24,000 deaths.
La Liga hopes to resume the 2019-20 season, which has 11 rounds of games still to play, in mid-June.
A later phase of the government’s planning provides for outdoor events with up to 400 people in attendance to take place, which would allow matches to be played behind closed doors.
ESPN has reported that La Liga’s clubs have been warned to expect to play games without fans present until January 2021.