After the fact, officials in Leipzig's public health department explained why they opted to allow Saturday's UEFA Nations League fixture to proceed.
Whether or not the ball would roll in Leipzig on Saturday remained in doubt even a scant few hours before kickoff. The ultimate decision to allow the fixture to be played came from local health authorities, who went public with their reasoning on Sunday morning.
Five positive COVID tests (four players, one staff member) among the Ukrainian ranks presented the Leipzig health department with a dilemma. Local administrators were well within their legal rights to order the entire team into quarantine, thereby ensuring the cancellation of the match.
There exists some understandable speculation that the health department might have felt unduly pressured to green light the match, lest the German Nationalmannschaft be forced to forfeit the points. The current UEFA regulations do, in fact, place authorities in such a difficult position.
If a match is outright cancelled, the UEFA control committee inherits the right to assign a score to the match. In principle, the hosting nation can lose both the points and have their group goal differential adversely affected. This occurs when a locale or national association is deemed "responsible" for the fixture's abrogation.
The case of the Norwegian national team shall provide an interesting case study in how this might work. Norwegian health authorities ordered the entire team into quarantine following one positive test on Saturday. The team now cannot travel to Bucharest for a scheduled Sunday evening encounter against Romania. UEFA will now decide if Norway forfeits points and goals.
Perhaps in an effort to get ahead of such speculation, the Leipzig health department insisted that their decision was based on scientific contract tracing protocols. City spokesperson Matthias Hasberg pointed out that the decision was based on relevant conversations with the Ukrainian national team, adding "a health department is not a police force".
According to Hasberg, detailed contact tracing interviews revealed that there was no "Category One Patient" in the visiting team. Such a crucial classification is defined as an infected actor who has spent at least 15 minutes in close contact with other team members.
This preventative measure stems the possibility of larger outbreaks within a group and is indeed the reason why positive tests within a team need not always lead to match postponements.
Hasberg emphasized that, after thorough questioning, there was no reason to doubt the information supplied by the visiting team. "We rely on what the team tells us," he noted.
|1||Manuel Neuer (C)|
|19||Leroy Sané ⚽ ↩86|
|9||Timo Werner ⚽⚽ ↩76|
|10||Julian Brandt ↪76|
|11||L. Waldschmidt ↪86|
|12||Andriy Pyatov (C)|
|6||Taras Stepanenko ↩69|
|17||Oleksandr Zinchenko ↩86|
|11||Marlos Romero Bonfim|
|9||Roman Yaremchuk ⚽ ↩75|
|19||Oleksandr Zubkov ↩74|
|10||Júnior Moraes ↪75|
|21||Bogdan Mykhaylichenko ↪74|
|14||Ihor Kharatin ↪86|
|18||Evgeny Makarenko ↪69|