The EFL and Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) have today confirmed twice-weekly COVID-19 testing for all 72 clubs will be introduced - from Monday (January 11).
The re-introduction of a league-wide testing programme follows this week’s round of mandatory coronavirus tests and is designed to complement the league’s recently-enhanced matchday and non-matchday COVID protocols, with funding provided by the PFA earlier this season.
Medical advice continues to support that following these protocols is the most successful route to mitigating against the spread of infection but, given the emergence of a new strain of the COVID virus, it is acknowledged that additional testing where it is not currently happening may help with the early identification and isolation of asymptomatic individuals.
The tests have initially been procured from the private sector and will be fully funded by the PFA - following discussions which have taken place with the EFL across the past 72 hours.
EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: "We have repeatedly maintained that adhering to the stringent protocols implemented during the re-start last summer, and then across all clubs since the beginning of the season, was going to be our best chance of beating the virus and to keep playing matches.
"Only last week we took the decision to enhance these to further minimise risk, though with the new strain of the virus taking hold across parts of the country, it is now clear from our discussions with our medical advisors and public health officials that additional testing, operated in conjunction with strict protocols, may prove beneficial in the immediate short term.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the PFA for their support in helping us to finalise a position on testing across all three divisions on a twice-weekly basis.
"We will continue to review the situation and make any adjustments or changes as circumstances dictate with the health and well-being of our players and club staff the overwhelming priority.”
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "In the light of the current increase in COVID-19 cases and the resulting further tightening of government regulations, the PFA and the EFL have agreed enhanced measures to help protect players, staff and their families.
"Football has provided temporary relief for many fans during the lockdown. PFA members, alongside millions of people, have worked hard and played a positive role throughout the pandemic.
"We believe that this comprehensive and expansive approach to testing will help support clubs and be an important factor in maintaining fixtures and ensuring that football can continue during this challenging period."
The EFL’s medical advisors, Dr Richard Higgins and Dr Subhashis Basu, added: "The emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 and the current speed at which the virus is spreading means we are going to have to be prepared to review and implement new practices to ensure we have appropriate measures in place at any given time.
"Lateral flow testing is an important adjunct in our ability to identify infected individuals at an early stage, particularly those with high viral loads as is more common with this new variant, as these people are thought to be most infectious.
"In addition to hand hygiene, through consistently reinforcing good behavioural practices including physical distancing, wearing facial coverings indoors, reducing time spent in enclosed areas and improving building ventilation, we are taking the most effective steps to reduce further transmission."