The Premier League season has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest due to the widespread coronavirus outbreak, following an emergency meeting on Friday.
It becomes the latest high-profile football competition to take preventative action, with the Champions League and Europa League, as well as La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A, announcing suspensions to play.
A statement read from the Football Association read: “The FA, Premier League, EFL and Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England until 3 April at the earliest.
“This action, which will be kept under constant review, has been taken due to the increasing numbers of clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff because of the COVID-19 virus.”
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”
The Premier League also said it is the league’s aim to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by academy sides, when it is safe to do so.
In addition, the English Football League announced a suspension to the Championship, League 1 and League 2 in England until April 3.
After Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi confirmed they tested positive for the coronavirus, the Premier League called an emergency meeting where it was decided that play should be suspended.
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The World Health Organisation has classified the virus a pandemic and Juventus player Daniele Rugani became the first high-profile professional footballer to be diagnosed. Three unnamed Leicester City players went into self-isolation after showing symptoms, while sources told ESPN Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy has been tested.
The Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for this past Wednesday, was the first Premier League game to be postponed. The match was called off as a preventative measure once Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis confirmed he had the virus. Marinakis was pictured at the Emirates celebrating when Olympiakos knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League on Feb. 27.
A player at Everton also has gone into a period of self-isolation, the Premier League club said in a statement: “Everton Football Club can confirm that one member of the Everton first-team squad reported a high temperature last night and is now undertaking a period of self-isolation for seven days.”
Watford and Bournemouth also confirmed players are in self-isolation after reporting symptoms, while West Ham have said that club personnel that came into direct contact with Arteta are now self-isolating.
UEFA will discuss the postponement of Euro 2020 during an emergency video conference involving all 55 European football associations on Tuesday.
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, is a new strain of coronavirus that has surged around the world in recent months.
The coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory diseases. Flu is caused by a different virus. There is no vaccine for coronavirus, though researchers are working on one and hope to begin testing soon.
Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are most at risk. The coronavirus spreads mainly through coughs and sneezes, though it also can be transferred from surfaces.
The best way to prevent infection is by frequent hand-washing, cleaning surfaces with regular household sprays and wipes, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.