Not less than 40 players and staff of the elite English Premier League (EPL) have been infected with Coronavirus in the last two rounds of testing over the past week, the authorities disclosed on Tuesday.
That figure is more than double the previous record of 18 positive cases recorded last week and comes as England enters a nationwide lockdown to halt soaring infection rates.
Meanwhile, Premier League football and other forms of elite professional sport in England will be allowed to continue despite new national lockdown restrictions announced by the British government on Monday.
Nearly 56 million people in England will return to a full coronavirus lockdown, possibly until mid-February, to try to cut spiralling infection rates, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address.
The measures, which include the closure of primary and secondary schools, will come into effect Wednesday, he said after Scotland announced similar measures to come into force from midnight (0000 GMT) on Tuesday.
But a list of exemptions published by the UK government allowed “elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) – or those on an official elite sports pathway – to compete and train”.