Thirteen cases of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant have been found among players of Portuguese top-flight side Belenenses, who had their game against Benfica abandoned on Saturday.
Belenenses named just nine outfield players for the match due to a Covid-19 outbreak and it was called off at 7-0 when injuries reduced the team to six.
It has now been confirmed by Portugal’s national health institute (INSA) that 13 players and four members of staff have tested positive for the Omicron variant.
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“Preliminary tests carried out at INSA, strongly suggest that all 13 cases associated with players of Belenenses SAD are linked to the variant of concern Omicron,” the institute said in a statement sent to Portuguese media.
It added that one of the Belenenses players has recently returned from South Africa, where the new strain was discovered last week.
"We're all in isolation except for the youth team that didn't play on Saturday, 44 people are in isolation at home," said a Belenenses club spokesperson.
"Two or three players and two or three staff have symptoms, but nothing too serious, the rest are asymptomatic. Everyone is waiting to repeat the tests, as soon as the health authority authorises it."
A Benfica spokesman said none of their players were in isolation ahead of their next league match on Friday.
Portugal has now banned flights from Mozambique, its only direct connection to southern Africa, while the country's Director-General for Health, Graca Freitas, told TSF Rádio Notícias:
We'll have more proactive isolation and a more intensive testing of contacts.
The game between Belenenses and Benfica caused controversy as it was allowed to go ahead despite the Covid-19 outbreak and the number of players missing.
There will be meetings this week between the league and the clubs to review the incident.
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