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German clubs set to quarantine to finish pandemic-hit season

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — German soccer teams will be confined to “quarantine training camps” so the season can be finished on time after a spate of coronavirus cases sidelined teams and put pressure on the schedule.

Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin and three second-division clubs have all had to postpone games this month after virus outbreaks in their squads. More cases could mean there's no time to reschedule before the leagues have to close for the European Championship in June.

The German Football League, which oversees the top two men's divisions, said on Thursday it will mandate “quasi quarantine” from May 3, with players and staff allowed to spend time only at home or at club facilities. From May 12, they'll move into a “quarantine training camp” shut off from the outside world for the last two rounds of games.

It's a return to the bubble format which helped the Bundesliga restart first among Europe's big leagues in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic last year. “It is the clubs’ responsibility to ensure that players, coaches and training staff come into contact with no one but each other during the stated period,” the league said.

The Bundesliga is due to end on May 22 but more time is needed to hold promotion-relegation playoffs before clubs release players for Euro 2020. Hertha had to postpone three games and cancel team training for two weeks after the virus spread through the squad, with coach Pal Dardai among those infected.

That means a busy schedule for a team which is facing possible relegation. Hertha will return to action on May 3 against Mainz and will play four games in the space of 10 days to May 12 after the games were rescheduled by the league on Thursday.

The move to end the season in quarantine was welcomed by coaches including Augsburg's Heiko Herrlich. “It's important that the season can be played to the end and the risk is minimized,” he said. Herrlich was suspended for a game last year when he left his team's quarantine hotel to buy toothpaste and skin cream. This time round, he said, “I'll stock up on the supplies I need ahead of time.”

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