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Bath closed training ground after reports of 19 positive Covid tests... but the real number was one

Ben Coles
·3-min read
Rhys Priestland (right) breaks to score the first try during the Gallagher Premiership match at the Recreation Ground, Bath - PA
Rhys Priestland (right) breaks to score the first try during the Gallagher Premiership match at the Recreation Ground, Bath - PA

Bath's decision to shut their training ground at Farleigh House on Tuesday due to an alleged Covid-19 outbreak came after a calamitous "operator error" meant the number of positive tests at the club was incorrectly reported by the Gallagher Premiership's testing partners, Randox Health, who are paid £100,000 per week to supply the testing service.

Bath were informed that 19 of the 24 positive results this week across the Premiership comprised of Bath players and staff, with a further 16 players identified as close contacts, meaning that a total of 35 of the club's players and staff were told to isolate for 10 days. On Wednesday, Randox Health then informed Bath that 18 of the original 19 positive results were in fact negative, with just one player testing positive.

Telegraph Sport understands that a further nine close contacts are now isolating, with the club's academy rather than the first team mainly affected.

"We, advised by Public Health England, are now confident this was a discrete error and that the revised test results are correct," read a club statement. "However, as an additional surveillance measure alongside the Randox testing programme, independent Public Health testing will also be undertaken for Bath players and staff over the next 24 hours."

The club will not return to full-contact training at Farleigh House until Tuesday "when both the independent Public Health England test results and a further round of testing from Randox have been completed", just three days before their West Country derby against Bristol Bears, placing the club at a significant disadvantage. The fixture is set to go ahead as planned.

Only two players, one from Bath and one from another club, have tested positive for Covid-19 this week across the whole of the Premiership out of 989 players and management from the 12 clubs.

The weekly publication of the latest results from the PCR testing programme was delayed by more than 24 hours while the error involving Bath was investigated.

"Randox has assured Premiership Rugby that this was an isolated incident and that action has been taken to ensure that this does not reoccur," added the governing body.

A Randox spokesperson said: "As a result of routine risk analysis Randox discovered that in an isolated incident, operators failed to follow the established and robust procedures that Randox have in place for Covid-19 testing. Randox apologises for any inconvenience caused.

"We confirm there are two positive tests from 989 players and management in the PRL. Randox have introduced innovative robotic systems to ensure that this type of human error cannot reoccur."

Phil Winstanley, rugby director at Premiership Rugby said: "This issue has created disruption at our clubs, and especially at Bath Rugby who had isolated a number of players and temporarily closed their training ground after receiving their results early on Tuesday morning.

"The health and safety of everyone involved with Premiership Rugby is a priority for us so this matter will be thoroughly investigated."

The revised total of two positive cases marks a significant drop from the previous week's testing results, when 18 people from nine different Premiership clubs tested positive, making it the lowest figure recorded in the Premiership since week three when there were no cases.