All soccer matches in England, including the top-flight English Premier League, will be suspended until April 4 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on April 4,” the governing bodies for the leagues said in a statement.
Mikel Arteta, head coach of Arsenal F.C., and Chelsea striker Callum Hudson-Odoi have recently tested positive for COVID-19, while an unnamed Everton F.C. player is also self-isolating after showing symptoms. Three Leicester City first-team players are also self-isolating.
“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,” Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said in the statement.
“Despite the challenges, it is the Premier League’s aim to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by Academy sides, when it is safe to do so.”
The U.K. has 593 cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and eight people have died. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a change of strategy to tackle the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, moving to delay the spread of the virus rather than containing it.
Johnson said the most dangerous period for the country was some weeks away, telling citizens that they should stay at home for seven days if they have symptoms, however mild. He said schools would not be closed at this stage and the government was considering the question of banning of major public events.