LONDON – Manchester City expressed disappointment Sunday that defender Benjamin Mendy became the latest partying Premier League player to breach English coronavirus rules by hosting friends at his house on New Year’s Eve.
Mendy’s rule-breaking took place as City was already dealing with the impact of a coronavirus outbreak at the club that led to the postponement of Monday's match at Everton and has forced six players into self-isolation, with defender Eric Garcia's positive test announced Sunday.
Despite the risk of being infected at the gathering, Mendy was named as a substitute for Sunday's game at Chelsea where City was one player short on the bench.
“Benjamin had already COVID so he had it in the past,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “He has been tested every day like all the guys ... and is negative."
Contracting the coronavirus is not considered to provide any certainty against future infections.
The Premier League has not condemned any players from City, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham and Crystal Palace who have been seen over the Christmas period appearing to flout COVID-19 restrictions that have been tightened in response to a new variant, which scientists have said is up to 70% more contagious.
Mendy allowed a chef and two friends of his partner to attend his home, a representative for the player was cited as telling "The Sun" newspaper. People from different households are banned from mixing indoors in the northern English area where Mendy lives.
“The club is aware of a New Year’s Eve COVID-19 breach involving Benjamin Mendy and the subsequent media reporting of it," City said.
“While it is understood that elements of this incident have been misinterpreted in the reports, and that the player has publicly apologised for his error, the club is disappointed to learn of the transgression and will be conducting an internal investigation.”
The Frenchman has expressed regret.
“Ben accepts that this is a breach of COVID-19 protocols and is sorry for his actions in this matter," his representative said in a statement to “The Sun” newspaper. "Ben has had a COVID test and is liaising with Manchester City about this.”
Mendy has tweeted urging people “to take care of you and yours” as midnight approached on Thursday night.
Britain is in the midst of an acute outbreak, recording more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day over the past six days.
On Saturday, a social media image was published of Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso attending a house party in London over Christmas period.
The players are facing disciplinary action at Tottenham as Manuel Lanzini is at West Ham after also attending the party.
Fulham, whose match at Burnley on Sunday was postponed due to rising infections at the London club, is investigating pictures showing Aleksandar Mitrovic and his fellow Serb Luka Milivojevic of Crystal Palace, along with their two families on New Year's Eve.