Four more people from three Premier League clubs have tested positive for coronavirus after the third round of testing.
There were 1,008 tests carried out on Monday and Tuesday – and a fourth round will take place on Thursday and Friday, with up to 60 people from each club to be tested.
It is not yet known whether the four new positive tests are players, non-playing staff, or a combination of both – or whether any of the positives are from people who tested positive in the first round and who have returned after self-isolating for seven days.
No matches have been played in the Premier League since March, but the government has given the go-ahead for elite sport to resume from June 1.
And the return of contact training is seen as a major step towards a possible resumption of the Premier League next month.
Clubs will meet again on Thursday to discuss the broader details of how what has been dubbed Project Restart might take shape – including contingency talks on how curtailment of the season would look, if it is not deemed safe to resume.
Premier League clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a return to contact training, in another significant step towards the resumption of matches “when safe to do so”.
The significance of contact training is that it’s the single biggest step towards the resumption of matches.
Throughout the pandemic there have been concerns raised about the risks associated with training and what it takes for coronavirus to be transmitted on the pitch.
If there is no spike in positive tests, with fewer negative results over more tests, it will give the authorities, and clubs, the confidence that it will be safe to resume competitive games next month.
If everything goes to plan with contact training, a third vote, on a specific date, is expected in due course.
Four positive results out of just over 1,000 tests in the third round of testing only tells us half a story.
A statement read: “The Premier League can today confirm that on Monday 25 May and Tuesday 26 May, 1,008 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19.
“There have been 12 positive results since testing has been published this month.
“But we don’t yet know whether these new results include any of the six people who tested positive in the first round and have since returned from seven days in self-isolation.
“The figure is still relatively low so will provide further cautious optimism for the Premier League, only hours after the significant decision was made to resume contact training.
“These latest results again demonstrate that coronavirus is not widespread in all 20 clubs at the moment, at least not among an average of 50 people tested per club in the third round.
“Crucially, there has been no cluster of positive results in one club.
“The fact there are four positive tests must be taken seriously and those individuals must self-isolate for seven days before they take a further COVID-19 test.
“They cannot attend the training ground and three clubs will want to establish what contact those individuals had with other people, in particular in the same household.
“In theory, they should have not have come into close contact with anyone outside their household since March, under the government’s social distancing rules.
“It is important to highlight there have been 2,740 negative results in the first three rounds, around 99.5 per cent.
“Up to 60 people from each club will now be tested from the next round, twice a week, in line with an agreement to resume contact training.
“A fourth round of tests are due to take place on Thursday and Friday, in a key week for ‘Project Restart’.
“Clubs need positive figures to remain low to give the authorities the confidence that it will be safe to resume competitive games at some point next month.”