ARSENAL manager Mikel Arteta has tested for coronavirus – putting the rest of the Premier League season in doubt.
The whole first-team squad, coaches and support staff will now be placed in isolation for the next 12 days.
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The Premier League announced it will now hold an “emergency club meeting” on Friday to discuss future fixtures – with clubs expecting they will not play for a month.
Arteta, 37, said: “This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly.
“I will be at work as soon as I’m allowed.”
In light of the news, Brighton announced that Saturday’s game against Arsenal has now been POSTPONED.
The Gunners’ London Colney training centre has also been closed.
Arteta, his coaching staff and the entire Arsenal team were tested for the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday after their match with Manchester City was postponed due to safety concerns.
The club have stressed that the Spaniard has had no contact with Olympiakos owner Evengelos Marinakis, with the source of his infection remaining a mystery.
Up to four Arsenal players had met with Marinakis after the Europa League clash with Olympiakos at the Emirates on February 27.
Marinakis also sat among a number of Arsenal executives in the directors’ box and announced on Tuesday that he had succumbed to the illness.
As a result, everyone who had been in close contact with the Greek tycoon was tested for the virus and all of the playing squad were given the all-clear.
A club statement said: “Arsenal personnel who had recent close contact with Mikel will now self-isolate in line with Government health guidelines.
“We expect this to be a significant number of people from Colney, including the full first-team squad and coaching staff.”
Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: “The health of our people and the wider public is our priority and that is where our focus is.
“Our thoughts are with Mikel who is disappointed but in good spirits. We are in active dialogue with all the relevant people to manage this situation appropriately, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows.”
The statement added it was “clear we will not be able to play some fixtures on their currently scheduled dates”.
Youth team games have also been hit with the Under-23s, U18s and U16s having their games cancelled this weekend.
The news came just 49 minutes after the Premier League announced that games this weekend WOULD go ahead as normal.
Meanwhile Manchester City Benjamin Mendy is self-isolating as a precaution after a member of his family was admitted to hospital displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
Three Leicester City first-team players have also self-isolated after showing symptoms of coronavirus.
Chelsea also cancelled training after someone close to the squad showed symptoms of the killer bug.
Both Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers played their Europa League away fixtures on Thursday night behind closed doors.
On Wednesday, Arsenal’s clash against Manchester City was postponed due to the virus outbreak.
It came after Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who announced on Tuesday that he had contracted the virus, met Arsenal staff and players during the February 27 Europa League tie at the Emirates Stadium.
Elsewhere, Uefa will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to decide whether the tournament should be cancelled or postponed, and whether this season’s Champions League and Europa League can continue.
England’s friendly against Denmark on March 31 at Wembley and Italy on March 27 look certain to be cancelled, with both countries currently on lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson today said the government was “considering the question of banning major public events such as sporting fixtures”.
LaLiga, Serie A, Eredivisie, the Primeira Liga, MLS and the Turkish Super Lig have all now been suspended – as well as several other major sports leagues in Europe and the US.
The PM added: “There is no escaping the reality that these measures will cause severe disruption across our country for many months.
“The best scientific advice is that this will help us slow the disease and save lives.”
It comes as the total number of UK cases hit 596, with 10 deaths.
The latest deaths were of an 89-year-old at Charing Cross Hospital in London and a woman in her 60s at Queen’s Hospital in Romford. Both had underlying health conditions.
As he moved the UK into the “delay” phase of his battleplan for coronavirus, Mr Johnson said anyone with a mild cough or temperature must now stay at home for seven days.
Mr Johnson said families would continue to “lose loved ones before their time” as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.