Medical experts in Spain have urged La Liga to put squads into quarantine in team hotels away from their families if they want to successfully finish the season.
La Liga’s footballers will return to training his week but the feasibility of restarting the season with the players not in isolation has been questioned.
The director of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at the University of Madrid, Fernando Rodriguez told El Pais: ‘To really protect [Lionel] Messi he must be isolated. Footballers can become infected, say, playing with their children at home.
‘This is partly countered by doing the testing every three days. But do you have all the guarantees that he will be able to play without infecting anyone?
‘It is true that you can test families and perhaps cases can be diagnosed early, but you will not avoid the possibility that a son, a father, a cousin, or a wife, can infect the player, the coach or the physio, and that the next day they do a test that gives them a [false] negative, which means they can then infect other team-mates.’
Spanish medics say part of the problem is that a player can give a false negative test if his ‘viral-load’ is not high enough to measure on the test in the early stages of his infection.
Experts says this creates a problem in the context of La Liga’s plan to play games every three days because it does not allow enough time for a club to monitor the spread of any new infection.
Luis Cereijo, a sports science researcher and professor of biomedicine at the University of Alcala de Henares told El Pais: ‘To be sure that an infected player tests positive, you have to wait at least a week after the infection occurs. Considering some leagues are planning to play every three days, if you detect a positive that has spread to other teammates, it is possible that after three days you will test the entire squad and have false negatives.
‘The margin of error is large. Football can continue to exist but what cannot exist all the time there is no vaccine is the current competitive structure. Maybe the leagues should develop a more flexible competition schedule taking into account the possibility that a team may have to retire for a week.’
Rodriguez also questioned the morals of using the limited capacity of the country’s laboratories to test healthy footballers ahead of other citizens with coronavirus symptoms.
He told El Pais: ‘Spain has the capacity to carry out 50,000 tests daily but in view of the relaxation of lockdown restrictions there could easily be 50,000 people per day with symptoms who ought to have the test.
‘Carrying out tests on perfectly healthy footballers [instead] creates an ethical and legal problem.’