Soccer team Maccabi Tel Aviv announced that six of its players have tested positive for the coronavirus, along with seven staff members and its technical manager, Barak Yitzhaki.
The announcement Sunday comes just before the first game of the group stage of the Champions League tournament, against Red Bull Salzburg, set to be played in Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv.
Despite the loss of players due to the coronavirus, the game is to take place as usual. The Union of European Football Association’s rules stipulate that if at least 13 team members are fit to play and not in quarantine, games are to be held as usual.
On Thursday, Salzburg General Manager Jesse Marsch said that he was worried about coming to Israel due to the high infection rate in the country.
UEFA nevertheless required that his team to come to Israel.
Israel’s coronavirus cases have surged in recent months, and as of Monday, the country had recorded 188,760 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 1,260 deaths, according to Health Ministry data.
On Friday, Israel entered a three-week lockdown, requiring the closure of many businesses and setting strict limits on movement and public gatherings that will extend through key religious holidays including Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
After a discussion between Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto and the Israeli Football Association, Maccabi Tel Aviv received the green light to participate in Tuesday’s game.
The team is expected to be tested twice more before the game.
In late May, during the first wave of coronavirus, Israeli soccer resumed playing under heavy restrictions, including that no fans be allowed into the stadium, to enforce social distancing to battle the coronavirus.
After playing resumed, Maccabi Tel Aviv was fined NIS 20,000 (roughly $5,700) after players and fans celebrated a win next to a stadium, in contravention of social distancing regulations.