English football's Covidiots out in full force: Richard Buxton
As UK cases spike, so do instances of footballers breaching Covid-19 rules
Football continues to operate in a bubble of delusion where Covid-19 is concerned.
Rules are there to be broken in the eyes of the game's key protagonists with a myriad of players seemingly unconcerned by the prospect of catching a potentially deadly virus, or spreading it.
Across the United Kingdom, coronavirus cases have again risen at an alarming rate.
Since Dec 29, there have been more than 50,000 new cases every day, with many hospitals now on the verge of operating at full capacity.
Not that some players at Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham, Crystal Palace and West Ham United seem to care.
One quarter of the English Premier League's contingent of clubs boast the dubious distinction of owning a second wave of Covidiots after events in the previous fortnight.
Players who had admirably chipped in to help the National Health Service at the height of the pandemic last year are now slapping those same frontline workers in the face.
Under the UK's Tier 4 rules, which apply to places such as London and Greater Manchester, one is forbidden from having indoor social meetings with those from outside one's household.
But Benjamin Mendy hosted a New Year's Eve gathering while several of his City colleagues were self-isolating after having contracted Covid-19 or having been in contact with someone with the virus.
Mendy's breach is offensive on multiple fronts, not least because he should have been well aware of the danger, having had to self-isolate in March amid fears that a close family member had contracted the coronavirus, although it proved to be inaccurate.
Pep Guardiola's side saw their game with Everton postponed by the outbreak at the Etihad Campus with six players missing from this morning's clash with Chelsea, the latest being Eric Garcia.
That Mendy thought nothing of compromising City's first-team bubble by inviting a chef and two friends to his house shows a clear sense of disregard.
He is not alone, however, with several players ringing in 2021 with inter-club mingling.
Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic and Palace's Luka Milivojevic met up with at least seven other people on Dec 31, while Tottenham's trio of Giovani Lo Celso, Erik Lamela and Sergio Reguilon partied with West Ham's Manuel Lanzini and others over the Christmas period.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mitrovic's team accounted for two of the three postponed EPL games in the past week as a result of coronavirus outbreaks - last week's match at Tottenham and last night's trip to Burnley.
Three of the Covid culprits were named in their clubs' match-day squads for the New Year fixtures, with Lanzini and Milivojevic playing, and Reguilon an unused substitute .
Even if they had tested negative, their actions could endanger others as the virus has an incubation period.
This type of behaviour is nothing new, with Mohamed Salah, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish among those guilty of failing to take the Covid-19 threat seriously in recent months.
Yet the current absent-mindedness only heightens the already severe risk.
A new record of 18 positive tests in the EPL during the run-up to Christmas goes hand in hand with the hat-trick of cancelled games and has managers at loggerheads over a two-week "circuit breaker" proposal designed to stem the flow of rising infection rates.
As men who fall into a "high-risk" category for the virus, Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce fear Covid-19's presence, but Juergen Klopp, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mikel Arteta all see no benefit to compounding this season's already heavily condensed schedule.
If players continue to behave with impunity, the respective managers will not have to worry about whether the English top flight ultimately chooses to play on or press pause.
As it was in March, that decision will be well and truly taken out of everyone's hands.