Newcastle's match at Villa postponed due to COVID-19 cases, says club

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past St James' Park football stadium, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith

(Reuters) - Newcastle United's game at Aston Villa on Friday has been postponed due to a "significant increase" in positive COVID-19 tests at the club, the Premier League outfit said on Tuesday.

"Several Newcastle United players and staff members are now self-isolating at home after returning positive test results in recent days," a club statement said.

"The club's training centre site has been temporarily closed in order to contain the spread of the virus."

Five individuals at the north-east club had tested positive for COVID-19 -- three prior to Newcastle's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last week and two more over the weekend.

Newcastle lodged a request to have the game postponed and that was approved by the Premier League Board on Tuesday.

It is the first Premier League fixture postponed because of COVID-19 since last season resumed with Project Restart in June.

The club said it was working with Public Health England North East (PHE), local health authorities and the Premier League to identify the source of the outbreak and minimise the threat of further transmission of the virus.

"Newcastle correctly notified PHE regarding a number of positive COVID-19 test results, which is standard practice under Government and Premier League guidelines," the Premier League said in a statement.

"PHE convened a meeting with Newcastle and the Premier League yesterday to assess the situation and advised the club's training ground should remain closed and no group training would be permitted between players until Friday at the earliest."

It said all Newcastle's players and staff would be tested again this week.

"The Premier League wishes those with COVID-19 a safe and speedy recovery and will rearrange the postponed fixture against Aston Villa in due course," it said.

This weekend will see the return of a limited number of fans to some Premier League games for the first time since the pandemic took a grip on the country in March.

Clubs located in the government's Tier 2 regions, including London and Merseyside, can have 2,000 fans in attendance.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman in London and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones and Ken Ferris)

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