Stoke City and the rest of the Championship will start testing players for coronavirus this week – as six positive cases have been discovered in the Premier League.
Second tier teams are preparing to start training in small groups from next Monday ahead of a proposed re-start next month. Each side has nine remaining games and there are issues still to be decided in terms of promotion and relegation.
Players and staff must have a negative test before they are allowed back to work, even with strict social distancing operations in place. The process is expected to begin on Thursday, with results – which will not be made public – ready within 24 hours.
The Premier League has confirmed that half-a-dozen individuals from three clubs – out of 748 tested across the division – will now enter a seven-day isolation period.
In a statement, the Premier League said: “The Premier League can today confirm that, on Sunday 17 May and Monday 18 May, 748 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19.
“Of these, six have tested positive from three clubs. Players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate for a period of seven days.
“The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and oversight. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the Premier League due to legal and operational requirements.”
Further testing will continue to take place and the Premier League will continue to publish the league-wide results, although information will not be provided on specific clubs or individuals.
Discussions will take place in the coming weeks over whether clubs would have to isolate in a hotel for 14 days before play resumes, as happened in Germany before the Bundesliga restart.
Further talks are planned in the next seven to 10 days about when to allow contact training and finalising the fixture schedule.
Championship clubs have been sent a 47-page return-to-training protocol by the EFL.
That includes twice-weekly testing, with the league receiving anonymised reports. The testing is being overseen by Hong Kong-based Prenetics, which is also organising the procedures for the Premier League.
Players are also expected to have regular temperature checks and medical questionnaires and contact is being strictly limited. There will be no non-essential physiotherapy.
Gyms, medical rooms and canteens will remain out of bounds and changing rooms will only be used for toilet facilities. There will be no car sharing allowed and players have to arrive in kit.
There is a maximum of five players per pitch, with three members of staff, during a designated time slot of no more than 75 minutes. Training drills will have already been arranged online and players and staff must keep at least two metres away from each other when possible and no tackling or close contact sessions are permitted.
Equipment must be disinfected after each session, including goalposts, balls and GPS units – and there must be half an hour between sessions.