(Reuters) – The National Football League (NFL) has agreed to introduce a new set of COVID-19 protocols including a more targeted testing plan for players amid the emergence of the Omicron variant, it said on Saturday.
The NFL on Friday postponed games for the first time all season due to COVID-19 outbreaks that required three games to be rescheduled from the weekend to early next week.
The NFL said the league and the NFL Players Association have been in talks with medical advisers to discuss how to stop the spread of the virus and ensure the completion of the season.
“After this weekend’s games, we have agreed to put into place a new set of protocols, which will include a more targeted testing plan, more flexibility for players to attend meetings virtually and also a high-risk player opt-out for the remainder of the season,” the league said.
The NFL did not give details of the new testing system, but Pro Football Talk reported that the league would eliminate the regular testing of vaccinated, asymptomatic players.
The report said the current system, in which vaccinated players with no symptoms are tested once a week, would be replaced with a random process that would test a handful of asymptomatic vaccinated players.
It added that mandatory weekly testing of all vaccinated players would also end.
The NFL said on Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccination rate stood at 94.6% among players and nearly 100% among personnel, while 30 of the league’s 32 clubs have an overall vaccination rate of 95% or higher.
Around 100 NFL players tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, the NFL Network reported on Wednesday.
The NFL’s new COVID-19 protocols come shortly after the National Hockey League (NHL) also introduced enhanced COVID-19 protocols as the Omicron variant threatens to intensify an already alarming surge of COVID-19 cases in North America.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond and Hugh Lawson)