NHL players who test positive for coronavirus and are fully vaccinated may only have to isolate for five days as part of changes to the league's health protocols.

Previously, any player or staff member to record a positive test would have to isolate for 10 days.

Outbreaks among teams this month caused the league to begin its Christmas break early and pause all games that involved cross-border travel between the United States and Canada.

However, following updated guidance from the USA's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) agreed to modify regulations.

Players and team operations staff who test positive will now only have to isolate for five days, or, if they develop a fever, "until their fever resolves".

Asymptomatic individuals or those with improving symptoms will be cleared to return to practice and games if they provide a test that is either negative or falls within certain parameters.

They will also require medical clearance from team doctors and the permission of their local health authority. They must also wear a mask around others for another five days, except for during practice and games.

NHL medical experts will review the changes to the measures on or before January 12.

Thibaut Courtois has confirmed he is asymptomatic after returning a positive test result for COVID-19.

The Real Madrid goalkeeper, along with team-mates Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior, was confirmed by Los Blancos to have tested positive in the latest round of testing.

LaLiga leaders Madrid have had to deal with several positive cases within their squad over recent weeks, and are likely to be without the four players for at least their opening matches of 2022, against Getafe and Alcoyano respectively.

While Valverde and Camavinga have made 15 LaLiga starts between them this season, goalkeeper Courtois has started every top-flight match and winger Vinicius has played in all 19 league fixtures, scoring 10 goals and providing four assists.

His 14 goal contributions in LaLiga is topped only by Karim Benzema (22) in Madrid's squad, and the Brazil international could be a big miss for Carlo Ancelotti, while Courtois' steady presence will also be absent.

"Unfortunately, and despite complying with all the measures, I have tested positive for COVID," wrote the Belgium goalkeeper on Twitter.

"Although I do not have any symptoms, I am at home following the corresponding protocol and training to return as soon as possible. Thank you all!"

SAFE HANDS

Courtois has played every minute for Madrid in all competitions so far in 2021-22, with back-up Andriy Lunin yet to make a single LaLiga appearance for Los Blancos across the last two seasons.

The Ukrainian was one of six Madrid players to test positive for COVID-19 last week, though should be in line to return from isolation in time to face Getafe on January 2.

Only Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel (26) has made more appearances of goalkeepers in Europe's top five leagues than Courtois (25) this campaign.

Of shot-stoppers to play at least 20 times, only Yassine Bounou (Sevilla) and Edouard Mendy (Chelsea) – both 15 – have conceded fewer goals than Courtois' tally of 19.

In LaLiga, Courtois concedes 0.84 goals per 90 minutes played, ranking him third out of goalkeepers to have featured at least 10 times in Spain's top flight this season.

Courtois' save percentage of 78.41, meanwhile, leads the way in Europe's top five leagues, out of goalkeepers to have played 20 games or more across all competitions, ahead of Mendy (77.61), and the former Chelsea man has made only one error leading to a shot, with that mistake not resulting in a goal.

Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior have all tested positive for COVID-19, Real Madrid have confirmed.

LaLiga leaders Madrid have had to deal with several positive cases within their squad over recent weeks, and are likely to be without another four players for at least their two opening matches of 2022.

Madrid issued a short statement on Wednesday confirming Courtois, Camavinga, Valverde and Vinicius were the latest players to test positive.

Los Blancos face Getafe in LaLiga on January 2, before travelling to Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey three days later.

David Alaba and Isco were confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus on December 21, taking the total of Madrid players to have contracted the illness to eight in the space of a week.

Luka Modric and Marcelo had gone into quarantine after routine testing on December 15, and Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo and Andriy Lunin then tested positive the following day, along with Carlo Ancelotti's son and technical assistant Davide.

While Valverde and Camavinga have made 15 LaLiga starts between them this season, goalkeeper Courtois has started every top-flight match and winger Vinicius has played in all 19 league fixtures, scoring 10 goals and providing four assists.

His 14 goal contributions in LaLiga is topped only by Karim Benzema (22) in Madrid's squad, and the Brazil international could be a big miss for Ancelotti.

Madrid will be hoping to welcome back the players in time for their home match against Valencia on January 8.

World number one Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Sydney amid ongoing uncertainty over his title defence at next month's Australian Open.

Djokovic has not yet confirmed his place at January's Grand Slam due to the COVID-19 mandate in Victoria.

The 34-year-old's father, Srdjan, has previously said that the nine-time Australian Open champion is unlikely to feature in Melbourne unless vaccination rules are relaxed.

World number 33 Dusan Lajovic will now lead the Serbia team at the ATP Cup.

Meanwhile, Austria have been replaced by France at the event following the withdrawals of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak. The French will be led by world number 35 Ugo Humbert, alongside Arthur Rinderknech, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Fabrice Martin.

Russia's Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy have withdrawn, with Evgeny Karlovskiy joining the team, while Team USA's Austin Krajicek has also pulled out.

The ATP Cup will begin on New Year's Day at both Ken Rosewall Arena and Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Olympic Park.

Barcelona have confirmed Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti and Gavi have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Blaugrana were previously hit with positives for Clement Lenglet, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Alejandro Balde in the past week.

A statement on the club's website on Wednesday read: "The footballers Dembele, Umtiti and Gavi are positive for COVID-19 after PCR tests on the squad. 

"The players are in good health and self-isolating at home. The club has reported the cases to the relevant authorities."

Umtiti has largely been out of favour at Camp Nou this season, playing just once across all competitions, while Dembele has only managed eight appearances (four starts) having spent a significant period out through injury.

Gavi is the club's third-highest appearance maker in this campaign, though, with the 17-year-old midfielder playing 22 times, 17 of which have been starts. Only Sergio Busquets has featured more often.

The Blaugrana sit in seventh place in LaLiga, two points off fourth and 18 behind leaders Real Madrid, and travel to face Real Mallorca next on January 2.

The Brooklyn Nets can count on Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge again after they were cleared to return from NBA health and safety protocols.

Durant, who was in a rich vein of form, has sat out the Nets' previous three games, while Aldridge has not featured in the past five.

They could be back on court for Thursday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center, the first of a run of three at home for the Nets.

Kyrie Irving has also been released from the shackles of the same COVID-19 protocols, the NBA said on its official website.

Because Irving is unvaccinated and cannot play home games due to local restrictions in New York City, his return to action must wait.

Irving has not played all season but could be in the frame to be involved in the trip to the Indiana Pacers on January 5 or at the Chicago Bulls a week later.

The Nets lead the way in the Eastern Conference with a 23-9 record, after following up a Christmas Day win over the Los Angeles Lakers by beating the Clippers on Monday.

 

James Harden, freshly out of protocols, played lead roles in both those wins with hauls of 36 and 39 points, and now he is set to have elite support.

Durant leads the Nets in scoring this season with an average of 29.7 points per game, alongside 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists. 

The Nets have had three recent games postponed due to their roster being hard hit by absentees.

Barcelona have announced that defender Jordi Alba has tested positive for COVID-19.

The left-back must now self-isolate, making him unlikely to be able to travel to face Mallorca on January 2 for Barca's next LaLiga game.

The 32-year-old becomes the third Barca defender to be sidelined with COVID-19, joining fellow full-back Dani Alves and centre-back Clement Lenglet.

Barca's official statement read: "First-team player Jordi Alba has tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of Tuesday afternoon's training session at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper from 6pm CET.

"The player is in good health and self-isolating at home. The club has reported the case to the relevant authorities.

"He joins Clement Lenglet and Dani Alves on the sidelines, who also tested positive for COVID-19."

Xavi must now consider how to replace Alba in the side as he looks to steer Barca out of seventh place in the table and into the Champions League spots, with Rayo Vallecano two points ahead of them in fourth.

Only Sergio Busquets, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong have played more minutes across all competitions than Alba's 1,526, highlighting his importance to the team.

The NBA has changed its health and safety protocols with players who test positive for COVID-19 now able to return to play in six days.

The change shifts the customary isolation period from 10 days to six, provided those players are asymptomatic and meet other testing standards.

Clubs were sent a memo by the league on Monday, coinciding with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cutting isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days.

Coronavirus numbers within the NBA has soared in recent weeks despite 97 percent of players being vaccinated.

Approximately 120 current NBA players were in protocols on Monday, with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum recently forced out.

The all-clear was given for day three of the Boxing Day Ashes Test to start on time after Australia and England players all tested negative for coronavirus.

There had been a scare ahead of the second day of the third Test in Melbourne when a member of the tourists' family group returned a positive COVID-19 result.

The England players and management were forced to remain at their hotel while they awaited their test results, before being given the green light to travel to the ground, with play starting half an hour later than scheduled.

Both sets of players took PCR tests after the second day of play and Cricket Australia on Tuesday confirmed all tested negative, meaning there were no delays for the third day.

The England team's support staff and the family members who tested positive on Monday – reportedly six people in total – are in isolation.

Australia were well on course to retain the urn after reducing Joe Root's side to 31-4 in their second innings after two days of play, with England trailing by 51 runs and 2-0 down in the series.

The NHL has postponed another three games this week as cases of COVID-19 continues to hit the league.

Games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday and a home-and-home set between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday and Friday will not be played.

That takes the number of games the NHL has now postponed up to 67 this season; a situation that led to the decision not to take part in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The league had planned to pause the season in February to allow players to take part in the Games, but that period will now be used to play some of the postponed games.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said last week: "We obviously will work very close with the (NHL) Players' Association. I do think we'll have to build in some off time during that three-week period for the players as they had anticipated previously.

"There are a lot of boxes to check there, but I expect that we'll be able to portion some portion of that break period to various clubs to get their players rested, and I hope to make full utilisation of the period so that we can make up the games that we've missed."

There is a "good chance" Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant will leave the NBA's coronavirus protocols this week, according to head coach Steve Nash.

The 11-time All-Star entered the health and safety protocols on December 18, but he could be out and ready to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Kyrie Irving, who went into protocols on the same day as Durant, is further away from a return to action.

"I think there's a good chance Kevin will be [fit for Thursday]," Nash told reporters.

"With Kyrie, I'm not so sure but it's coming. He's already been in protocols since December 18; he's got to be getting close."

Brooklyn earlier stated that Irving will re-join the NBA championship-chasing franchise for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlooked him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, Brooklyn have opted to bring Irving back.

Jayson Tatum has entered NBA health and safety protocols and will miss the Boston Celtics' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

Tatum joins eight fellow Celtics players on the list after 13 were sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols recently.

Players must wait 10 days or return two negative COVID-19 tests within 24 hours of each other before they are allowed to return to action.

Tatum contracted COVID-19 in January and was out of action for a short period before returning, when he explained he was suffering long-term effects of having the virus, requiring an inhaler for some time.

The forward leads the Celtics in scoring (25.6) and rebounds (8.6 – level with Robert Williams) per game and is also averaging 3.8 assists and 1.0 steals in a strong season for the 23-year-old.

His absence for the Timberwolves game was announced by the Celtics on their official Twitter page.

The Celtics are ninth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 16-17 and have lost six of their last nine games ahead of their clash with the Timberwolves, who are ninth themselves in the Western Conference.

Lonzo Ball joined the long list of Chicago Bulls players to enter the NBA's health and safety protocols ahead of Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers.

Ball will not face the Pacers and the guard faces at least 10 days out of action unless he records two negative COVID-19 tests.

The 24-year-old is the 13th man on the Bulls roster to enter the protocols this month.

Three of Chicago's matches have been postponed in December due to the squad being so severely depleted.

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have since been given the green light to return, while Ayo Dosunmu, Matt Thomas, Alize Johnson, Devon Dotson, Coby White and Javonte Green have also cleared protocols.

Tony Bradley, Alfonzo McKinnie, coach Billy Donovan and now Ball are absent.

Chicago Bulls' head coach Billy Donovan has reportedly entered the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The Bulls saw two of their games postponed earlier in December after 10 of their players had entered the protocol.

Donovan, who has cold-like symptoms according to ESPN, told the media on Thursday that all the players had been cleared, and they are expected to be available for Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers.

He will apparently now miss that game, with Bulls assistant Chris Fleming acting as head coach.

The 56-year-old would become the fourth NBA head coach to enter into protocols, joining Sacramento's Alvin Gentry, the Lakers' Frank Vogel, and Indiana's Rick Carlisle.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has reportedly been cleared from the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Finals MVP Antetokounmpo entered the league's COVID-19 protocols on December 15 and has missed five games. 

According to ESPN, he will decide on Friday whether he is fit enough to feature in the Bucks' clash with the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day.

Antetokounmpo has been averaging 27.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the defending champions this season.

He is shooting 53.0 per cent from the field – his lowest number since the 2017-18 season, and 28.0 per cent from three-point range.

The Bucks (21-13) are third in the Eastern Conference, behind the Brooklyn Nets (21-9) and Chicago Bulls (19-10).

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