Football league clubs recorded another drop in the number of Covid cases among players and staff last week with 26 positive tests.
The English Football League has begun testing twice a week this month, along with tougher protocols to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, after an alarming spike in cases through December and early January.
Encouragingly, the steps, combined with declining infection rates across the wider community, appear to be having a positive effect.
The Covid infection rate among EFL clubs is declining after tough new protocols are put in place
In the latest set of results, 4,794 players and club personnel from all 72 EFL clubs were tested between Monday, January 18 and Sunday, January 24 using the lateral flow method.
They showed an infection rate of 0.54%, with sixty clubs registering no coronavirus cases at all.
This was lower than the week before, the first series of biweekly tests, when 4,598 tests were performed with 36 positive results and an infection rate of 0.70%.
The EFL uses a lateral flow test to detect Covid, which is less accurate and much cheaper than PCR
Lateral flow tests are less accurate than the PCR method used in the Premier League, but they provide results much faster and are significantly cheaper to perform.
Despite a greater risk of error, the test is seen as an important step forward from the periodic tests that took place before.
The EFL introduced biweekly tests for all 72 clubs for fear that the new variant of the coronavirus was spreading within clubs through players and staff who showed no symptoms.
More than 50 games have been postponed in the league this season due to Covid outbreaks in the Championship, Leagues One and Two.
Until the turn of the year, EFL clubs were periodically tested, now it is twice a week
In some cases, the virus ripped through clubs, such as Shrewsbury Town, where the majority of staff were affected and the manager, Steve Cotterill, was admitted to intensive care for treatment.
However, the EFL strengthened its protocols by restricting access to indoor areas, reissuing guidelines for travel to and from matches and imposing a strict ban on unnecessary physical contact on match days, including not hugging while celebrating goals.
While compliance with the hug order has been mixed, there are signs that players and clubs are doing their best to comply.
The magnitude of the coronavirus problem in the EFL had become apparent in the club’s breaks, as well as through mandatory tests, which took place in the first week of the new year for the first time since November.
The number of coronavirus infections is falling in the EFL after an alarming rise in December
These tests used the more accurate PCR method, which registered 123 positive cases from 4,038 tests – an infection rate of 3.05% – which was significantly higher than the incidence of the virus in the Premier League and the wider community.
The Premier League is also registering less positive tests. Last week, using the PCR method, the top flight recorded just eight Covid cases out of 2,518 tests conducted between Monday, January 18 and Sunday, January 24. An infection rate of 0.32%.
In the total population, just over 2% of people test positive for Covid, but that figure is about 3% for people 18-35 years old.
Covid cases fall in EFL and the community, where it averages 33,738 per day
The number of people infected with the virus in the wider community appears to be declining since the start of the year, with NHS Test & Trace now registering an average of 33,738 cases per day, up from 59,660 at its peak on Jan. 8. .
And the number of new hospital admissions also started to decline across the country, from 4,221 per day in the week around January 9 to 3,863 on January 18.
However, the ONS said today that the total number of people who have died from the disease since the start of the pandemic has exceeded 100,000. Across the UK, there were 103,704 Covid fatalities by the middle of this month.