BERN (Reuters) - UEFA has overseen 61,859 COVID-19 tests since August, allowing more than 500 European matches to be played and making soccer one of the safest environments in the world, it said on Thursday.
The European soccer body, which has been criticised by some media for pressing ahead with international football during the pandemic, said that only 340 of those tests had been positive -- 0.55% of the total -- and only 3% of matches had been cancelled.
"The (protocol) that we put in place is robust and ensures the safety of all those involved, even in these trying times when the pandemic is progressing across the continent," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. "It gives us confidence that our competitions will be played as planned."
"It is a tribute to those involved and it demonstrates that matches can be played safely."
Describing it as a massive cross-continent effort, UEFA said that, on average, there had been 53.9 tests per team, per match, and less than half the positive results had been from players.
"UEFA's Return to Play Protocol made professional football among the safest environments in the world," it added.
UEFA said that, since August, it had staged matches in eight competitions -- the Champions League, Europa League, Women’s Champions League, Youth League, the Nations League, Euro 2020 playoffs, Under-21 and Women’s Euro qualifiers.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis)