RUGBY suffered a record Covid-19 spike with 33 cases – forcing Harlequins and London Irish to cancel games and shut their training grounds.
SunSport understands that Irish were the worst-hit, with up to 16 positive cases, as the crisis grew in the Premiership.
Declan Kidney's side could still field a team against Northampton Saints on Sunday, but were told to stand down and halt training until next week by Public Health England.
Irish boss Kidney said: “It's obviously a huge disappointment for everyone connected to the club that we're unable to go ahead with the fixture.
“We're disappointed because we feel we still had a strong group of players to select from, but due to Public Health England guidelines, we've been told we’re not allowed to play the game.
“It is clear that the entire country, especially here in London which is the epicentre of the virus, is at a critical juncture with this current phase of the pandemic.
“Of course it is frustrating, but the health and safety of the players, staff, supporters – and public at large – is our priority at this time as the country continues to navigate its way through the pandemic.”
After two games were scrapped last week due to a rise in coronavirus, this week 24 players across 10 clubs tested positive, with the rest members of staff.
At Quins, one player posted a positive after their defeat to Bristol on Boxing Day.
And after contact tracing, they were left without a front row to take on Worcester on Saturday.
“I’d imagine if professional football are discussing it (a circuit breaker), then Premiership Rugby are having discussions.
Like Irish, they are likely to still pick up two points for not playing at Sixways, with Worcester registering four points.
The Londonders added: "Harlequins has taken a further measure of standing players down from training for a week to contain any further transmission and to minimise the use and possible contamination of the training facility, such is the need to protect the health and wellbeing of players and staff."
The Bears were in the same boat, with one positive and another six self-isolating – but they are going ahead with their home game against Newcastle Falcons on Thursday.
Boss Pat Lam said: “The guys have been very cautious.
"At a time in the country where cases are growing, we’re fortunate we’re still able to play on Friday.
"We’re going to be pretty strong everywhere outside the front row.”
After two games were called off last week, Premiership Rugby added: "We would never cancel a match lightly, as we understand the consequences but we will always put health and safety first.
"Prem bosses have a jam-packed season and there is no space to rearrange games, unless they decide on mid-weekers.
And when asked about the chances of a two-week circuit break, Exeter boss Rob Baxter added: “I’d imagine if professional football are discussing it, then Premiership Rugby are having discussions as well.
"How they’d work it, whether it is games cancelled, postponed or a midweek scenario, I couldn’t tell you, but I’d imagine it’s something under discussion.”
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