(Reuters) – Spain’s top two divisions are to bring in daily COVID-19 testing of all players, regardless of vaccination status, in a bid to respond to a rise in positive cases.
The move highlights the contrasting approaches being taken by Europe’s top leagues with regards to the issue of mass testing of fully vaccinated players.
In a new protocol distributed to clubs on Wednesday and seen by Reuters, LaLiga said that while 95% of its players are fully vaccinated or have immunity, new steps need to be taken.
“With the surge of Omicron it is necessary not to let our guard down and to establish a minimum protocol with a series of obligations and recommendations that are necessary to stop the spread of the virus,” the league said.
Instead of being tested only before games, players and staff will undergo antigen tests every day when entering their club’s facilities. LaLiga will give 60 antigen test kits daily for each first and second division club.
PCR tests will be carried out weekly and also when players return from breaks of three days or longer, including from national team duty. Before a match, the home team have to test in the morning and the away team before departing for the game.
Testing is also to be carried out on close contacts of players every 10 days.
Spain’s approach is similar in scale to that of the Premier League, which last week carried out 12,345 tests on players and staff, finding 90 new positive cases.
The Premier League has daily antigen testing as well as twice-weekly PCR tests, regardless of vaccine status.
The mass testing of fully vaccinated players is in contrast to the approach taken by Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 and the German Bundesliga.
Serie A has reported that 98% of its players are double vaccinated and does not have league mandated testing for them.
Regulations on pre-match COVID tests in Italy are limited to unvaccinated players, although each club is free to test players whenever they wish. Unvaccinated players must test negative with a PCR test twice within three days before the game.
In France, a medical officer of the home club has to certify that none of the team’s and the staff show symptoms of COVID-19 and are either fully vaccinated or have presented a negative PCR test within three days of the match. In practice, that means unvaccinated players do not need to carry out a test before a game.
In the Bundesliga, all teams must inform the league of the status of all players whether vaccinated or recovered from the virus. Fully vaccinated people do not have to undergo continued testing.
All unvacinated players or staff must do two PCR tests per week, of which one is 48 hours before any match, or conduct an antigen test on training days or match days. Those who have recovered from COVID, gaining immunity, do not have to.
Germany’s measures are adjusted regionally as in the federal system they are subject to local health regulations.
Last week, the NFL in the United States switched from weekly testing of asymptomatic fully vaccinated players towards a targeted system which focuses on symptom screening.
NFL players who are not fully vaccinated will continue to receive daily testing.
(Reporting by Simon Evans in Manchester, Fernando Kallas in Madrid, additional reporting by Peter Hall, Karolos Grohmann and Julien Pretot)