One player and a member of the coaching staff contracted the virus last week, and another two cases were identified at the weekend, forcing the initial rescheduling of Saturday’s match. Then, on Monday, it was revealed that two more players had tested positive and by today that number had soared, with coaches, first-team players and members of the development squad all affected.
Although a handful of injuries further limited manager Jack Ross’ options, a severely debilitated squad – which would have been heavily-influenced by under-18 players – was expected to travel north.
But, in the first clue that the Dingwall trip may be in doubt, the Easter Road side cancelled their usual pre-match press conference and, following an afternoon of discussions with the SPFL, NHS Lothian, and the two other clubs, they have now announced that both upcoming games are off.
“This decision was made after a significant number of first team players, staff, and development squad players tested positive over the last few days. By following all the guidelines, we wouldn’t be able to field a team for either fixture, which has left us no other alternative than to postpone the fixtures.
“The individuals will not be named due to medical confidentiality and those affected will now self-isolate in-line with the protocol.”
Players had been asked to stay away from the training ground over the past couple of days, in a bid to minimise the spread, but that has not prevented further cases.
And, the club has been angered by allegations from an apparent eye witness that covid safety protocols had not been adhered to at the team hotel and at the training centre.
“We are in constant discussions with NHS Lothian to reduce the spread of Covid and HTC [Hibs training centre] has subsequently been closed for a deep clean. We have also undergone an internal investigation regarding the outbreak and are confident in our processes.
“We will continue to take every precaution necessary as the safety of our players and staff is of absolute importance.”
The decision to force the teams to face up at the Global Energy Stadium so soon after the initial outbreak, when the number of cases was always likely to rise, infuriated the Easter Road club, especially as it meant fans would be asked to make the lengthy seven-hour round trip twice within a matter of days. The fresh postponement will only add to the inconvenience.
"We would also like to apologise to our supporters who have made plans to attend the rearranged fixture at Ross County. We made our thoughts incredibly clear to the SPFL before the fixture was rearranged, and it took them until today, after more positive tests were recorded and several meetings, to make the right decision, which we thank them for.
“We will put out further details regarding away tickets purchased for both Ross County and Livingston in due course. We’d like to thank all our supporters for their understanding.”
It is still unknown whether there will be further implications for the Leith side’s international stars, with Kevin Nisbet named in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for the vital World Cup qualifying double header, away to Moldova and then at home to Denmark, while Martin Boyle is due to meet up with the Australian squad for matches against Saudi Arabia and China and Alex Gogic will be hoping he can yet play his part for Cyprus in the head-to-heads with Russia and Slovenia.