The emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid has raised concerns about sport, with some high-profile fixtures already falling foul of the latest spike in recorded positive cases.
Speaking at his midweek press conference, manager Keith Millen confirmed that the club continues to adhere to the guidelines in an attempt to keep the virus out of the building.
“It’s obviously a concern because we want everybody to be safe,” he said. “I wasn’t here last year but it decimated the season. The club know first-hand what impact it can have, we’re more than aware of that, so there are a lot of things in place from before I came in.
“This new variant has set the alarm bells off again and we’ve reacted to that. I’ve spoken to the medical department, spoken to the club, the EFL sent us emails along the lines of recommendations, so we’ve looked at that.
“I think we’ve really clamped down. I’ve backed our medical department on how much testing we’re going to do, and the players will be testing themselves at home before they come in. Any signs of any symptoms and they will stay at home.
“We’ve got a little area set up now, just by the Christmas tree in reception, where we’ve got a little testing room. They will be tested before they come into the building.
“The academy have separated themselves away from us, so they’ve been brilliant as well, supporting us. The players unfortunately have to clean their own boots, that didn’t please some of them!
“We really are trying to think of everything we can - drinking out of their own bottles, cleaning them - it’s so many things you try and do. I think we’ve covered every base as much as we can at the club. It’s just an awareness away from the club that you have to keep reminding them about.”
“Like I say, the club has had protocols in place since it all first started with red zones, travel arrangements, who is sharing with who, and who is vaccinated and who isn’t,” he continued. “All of that has been in place for a while, before I came here.
“From my point of view, because of the recommendations from the government, we’ve got stricter on certain things. We’re trying to keep our bubble a lot closer and we’ve started doing more regular testing.
“Everyone has to do a questionnaire every morning to check for any symptoms, and we’re testing two or three times a week. We’re trying to do everything we can to try and keep Covid out of the building.
“I think a lot of it is awareness, which I have to keep pushing onto the players. I can only really look after them while they’re in the building, it’s what they do when they aren’t here that they need to be aware of. That’s why we’re testing them as much as possible when they’re in for training.”
And he confirmed that the players have received external advice on the situation, as well as regular updates from the club and its medical staff.
“The EFL have sent us a chart with a risk assessment,” he commented. “It shows different things depending on whether you’ve been vaccinated once, twice or had a booster, and your age and other things.
“I can’t and I wouldn’t force anybody to have or not have vaccines, and I won’t ask them why. We’ve got a mixture in the squad, but without knowing the exact numbers I would say the majority have had at least one jab.
“That’s their choice and I can’t influence that. All I can do is try to make them understand what we’re doing to keep everyone at the club safe. We’ve had a couple of discussions on it, and I think they have to take their own responsibility on it as well.”
“We’re all concerned with what’s going on,” he concluded. “My concern is my bubble of players but, as a club, we’re obviously thinking about the fans as well.
“You can see some of the regulations that have been brought in for the Premier League, but unfortunately we don’t get those size of crowds yet where we have to worry about that.
“The capacity has changed but it would be nice to have 10,000 people here! We aren’t getting anywhere near those crowds at the moment, and I think the rules are about expected attendances.
“If we were getting bigger crowds then the club would look at it because the safety of fans is paramount. I don’t think it’s a big issue for us at the moment because we’re not getting those numbers in.”