BERLIN — Germany defender Niklas Sule has tested positive for the coronavirus and four more players are in quarantine as a precaution ahead of World Cup qualifying games against Liechtenstein and Armenia.
Team director Oliver Bierhoff said Tuesday that Sule was fully vaccinated and does not have any symptoms. Sule also tested positive for COVID-19 a year ago.
Germany has already qualified for next year’s World Cup. The team hosts Liechtenstein in Wolfsburg on Thursday and then plays Armenia in Yerevan on Sunday.
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The other four players – Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala and Karim Adeyemi – tested negative for the virus but have been instructed by the local health authority in Wolfsburg to isolate because of their proximity to the infected player.
It’s unclear how long they will be in quarantine.
“It’s in the hands of the local heath authority,” Germany team doctor Tim Meyer said. “It depends on whether any symptoms arise. It depends on how any subsequent tests turn out. There are certainly possibilities that the clubs will also be affected.”
Sule, Kimmich, Gnabry and Musiala all play for Bayern Munich. Adeyemi plays for Austrian club Salzburg.
Bayern later said that Cameroon forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting also had to isolate.
“They had contact with Sule,” the club said of its four affected players.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann only returned last week after missing four games because of his COVID-19 infection. He was also fully vaccinated.
Another four unnamed Germany players who were on the flight to Wolfsburg with Sule were being kept apart from the rest of the team as a precaution. They are considered less risk and can remain at the team hotel. Tuesday’s early training session was called off in favor of individual exercises. An evening session went ahead as planned.
Germany coach Hansi Flick called up Wolfsburg players Ridle Baku and Maximilian Arnold, and Monaco forward Kevin Volland to the squad after the others’ departure. Florian Wirtz and Nico Schlotterbeck have also dropped out with injuries. Flick called up Bayer Leverkusen defender Johnathan Tah on Monday.
Germany’s rate of virus infections has been climbing steadily in recent weeks and reached a new pandemic-high on Tuesday with 213.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
Kimmich previously caused a furor in Germany by voicing his reluctance to get vaccinated.
“Jo Kimmich’s opinion has been widely discussed and I don’t think I can add anything new,” Meyer said. “I think at a certain stage you have to say, we accept it the way it is.”
Meyer said employee protection laws don’t allow the German soccer federation to oblige players to be vaccinated. Only vaccinated or recovered spectators are allowed at Thursday’s game in Wolfsburg. Mayer said there were different laws in place for workplace and leisure environments.
The situation is likely to change as infection numbers continue to rise with politicians already discussing new restrictions to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
Last weekend, a second-division game in Germany was called off after one of the clubs reported 18 new coronavirus cases among players and staff.