The EFL have confirmed that 112 players and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, after the league tested 3,507 people across its member clubs earlier this week.
The costs involved have so far prevented the EFL from conducting regular testing, but after the new strain of coronavirus caused a significant spike in cases across the UK, the governing body announced last week that it will begin testing twice weekly from 11 January.
Ahead of the FA Cup third round, however, all 72 clubs conducted mass testing on 4 January, and the EFL announced results on Friday. 3% of the 3,507 tests returned positive, a substantially lower rate than the national daily average of 10%, but higher than the Premier League – which normally tests below 2%.
The EFL maintained an optimistic tone in their statement, as medical advisors Dr Richard Higgins and Dr Subhashis Basu said: “Today’s results reflect the current speed at which the virus is spreading amid the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19.
“But the low reported numbers across the overwhelming majority of clubs means we remain confident that our protocols continue to mitigate against the spread of infection as intended.
“The protocols, supported by the clubs and government, are allowing us to continue playing fixtures as scheduled but we cannot be complacent, which is why recently enhanced matchday and non-matchday COVID protocols have been issued to underpin the re-introduction of a league-wide testing programme which commences next week.
“Medical advice continues to support that following these protocols is the most successful route to mitigating against the spread of infection.”
More than 40 matches across the EFL have been postponed in the last month as a result of the increase in COVID cases and that number is expected to rise with regular testing now underway.
The news sparks fresh conversation over the viability of continuing football while cases rise within the sport at an alarming rate, but the Premier League and EFL remain steadfast in their determination to trust the protocols and press ahead.