IN the never-ending debate about the acuity – or lack thereof – over the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, it is easy to forget that there are nations much further down the road to a return to normality.

Much cheer greeted the announcement last week by German chancellor Angela Merkel that the Bundesliga season would recommence this Saturday; in Spain, teams have returned to training and on Saturday, in Italy, AC Milan declared that there had been no positive cases of Covid-19 based on tests carried out on first-team players and technical staff with talk of a return still in its infancy in that country.

The news from Germany was met with glee by football fans starved of competitive action since the second week of March. BT Sport, the broadcaster who holds exclusive rights to the Bundesliga in the UK, has renamed its football twitter account ‘Ja! Watch the Bundesliga live on BT Sport’, while content on the feed is almost exclusively of a Teutonic flavour. The channel has even hinted that it will show this weekend’s games free to air following the lifting of the ban on screening 3pm kick offs amid the general euphoria that Merkel’s decision has brought.

Not everyone is quite so happy.

On Sunday, two players at Dynamo Dresden, sitting at the bottom of Bundesliga 2, tested positive for coronavirus after a third round of testing. Dresden’s entire first-team squad and coaching staff was immediately placed in quarantine for 14 days and their matches against Hannover on May 17 and Greuther Furth on May 24 have been cancelled while a third fixture, the midweek game against Arminia Bielefeld is also in doubt. Dynamo had only just returned to full contact training on Thursday having apparently adhered to the German Football League’s (DFL’s) 11-point list of guidelines drawn up to mitigate potential infection during the return phase.

Elsewhere, players have been openly critical of the plans. The Cologne midfielder Birger Verstraete, whose girlfriend has a history of heart problems, has questioned club policy after two players and the physiotherapist, with whom he had spent significant time, tested positive. Cologne, taking its lead from local state advice, did not implement isolation for the entire squad. Since then, the trio have been given the all clear, Verstraete’s girlfriend has returned to Belgium and the player has apologised for his comments.

Meanwhile, Union Berlin’s Neven Subotic and Magdeburg’s Soren Bertram have made similar noises with the latter saying players “felt like puppets” as the debate over when the third tier in Germany would reopen and the former claiming that he was living in fear of catching the virus.

The chief executive of the DFL, Christian Seifert, has sought to placate the concerns of teams but in doing so he has invited problems for himself.

“We have to take these fears and worries, seriously, and we do,” said Seifert recently. “For the players, it’s no different to other people who still have to go to work every day, but as long as the rules are adhered to, the risk of infection is extremely low.”

Events at Dynamo Dresden – where contact had only just been reintroduced – undermine his position, however. Footballers, clearly, are not like other workers.

There has been criticism, too, from club members – the majority vote holders in all German clubs – angry at unilateral decisions taken without their consent.

Nonetheless, the sport is in peril in Germany, much as it is across the continent. Schalke have warned that they could go bust if football does not return, while Borussia Dortmund have made similar suggestions about the very existence of the Bundesliga in its current guise should the season be cancelled with estimates placing the loss of matchday revenue at €70million. Some of the financial fears have been assuaged, however, by the securing of final payments from all but one of the broadcasters with around €250m paid to clubs at the start of May following the relaxation of lockdown measures.

The return has required a monumental logistical effort. In mid-April, a 51-page blueprint was produced to look at staging matches behind closed doors. Discussions over how football would be delivered have been the subject of a task force looking at sports medicine and special operations since the end of March.

The planning has been along the lines of a military operation.

Games will be limited to a personnel of 322 in and around the stadium. Players will be asked to observe social distancing inside changing rooms, meaning the use of multiple rooms if necessary. Balls will be disinfected at regular intervals during games, ball boys will be required to use hand sanitiser throughout, prematch pleasantries will be dialled down, facemasks will have to be worn by managers, coaches, VAR operators, cameramen, medical staff and the fourth officials.

The list of further stipulations is long and varied, governing everything from showering at home or the hotel after games to social distancing for substitutes within the dugout.

It does not bode well for a restart on these shores. No one seriously believes that football will return any time soon in Scotland, with clubs and officials already at each other’s throats, never mind expecting the collective brains trust to embark on the coordinated effort that has been required to get the Bundesliga to this point. In the face of concerted opposition from a number of influential stakeholders, Seifert has taken the league to a point where games will be held this weekend. There’s no way the SPFL would be capable of achieving it, even if there was a consensus on how or when football should return.

Meanwhile, in England, the great myth perpetuates. As of yesterday Germany had 7569 deaths from coronavirus while the UK’s total stood at 32,065. Mixed messages from Boris Johnson’s government, borne out by images of workers returning en masse via public transport yesterday and Dominic Raab’s flim-flammery over face masks, parental meetings and workplace regulations, demonstrated yet again a collective inability to convey even the simplest advice effectively.

The Football Association yesterday told the Premier League it must finish its season on sporting merit. Johnson said yesterday that, barring setbacks, football could return by June 1 with a date of June 12 already pencilled in for Project Restart. That’s about a month to do what Germany achieved in more than twice the time with a much lower death toll.

If you’ve been staying alert, you’ll already know that the Premier League agreed with UEFA to end the season by June 30. In other words, don’t count on it happening on the pitch.