The 13 reported cases of Covid-19 at the Portuguese football club Belenenses, whose league match against Benfica was called off at the weekend when their team was reduced to just six players, are probably linked to the Omicron variant, Portugal’s national health institute announced Monday.
If confirmed, the cases would be the first in Portugal linked to the new coronavirus strain.
The health institute added that one of Belenenses players had recently travelled in South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified.
Dozens of nations from Europe to Asia have suspended travel from South Africa and its neighbours since South African scientists flagged Omicron on November 25.
The World Health Organization has labelled Omicron a variant of concern, saying it poses a “very high” risk globally, while scientists are still assessing its virulence.
Portuguese league officials met on Sunday to discuss the farcical game between Belenenses and Benfica, which had to be called off in the second half after Belenenses started with only nine players, including two goalkeepers, due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Belenenses played one of their goalkeepers, Joao Monteiro, as an outfield player and had no substitutes at the Estadio Nacional where Benfica strolled into a 7-0 lead before half-time on Saturday.
The Primeira Liga game was called off by referee Manuel Mota three minutes into the second half, after Belenenses were reduced to six players. They had emerged after half-time with only seven players before Monteiro went down injured.