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Euro 2020: Croatia are AFRAID to play Covid-stricken Scottish team

What does ‘close contact’ mean and when do you have to self-isolate in normal life? 

The UK Government defines a close contact as ‘a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19’.

Someone can be a contact any time from two days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms (or, if they did not have any symptoms, from two days before the date their positive test was taken), and up to ten days after, because this is when they can pass the infection on to others.

A contact can be:

  • Anyone who lives in the same household as another person who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive for Covid-19
  • Anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid -19:
  • face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
  • been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)
  • A person may also be a close contact if they have travelled in the same vehicle or plane as a case.

If you have been identified as a contact, you have been assessed as being at risk of developing Covid-19, even if you don’t currently have symptoms.

An interaction through a Perspex or equivalent screen with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 is not usually considered to be a contact, as long as there has been no other contact such as those in the list above.

If you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 you will be notified by the NHS Test and Trace service via text message, email or phone. 

According to NHS England, in normal situations, close contact means ‘close face to face contact (under one metre) for any length of time – including talking to them or coughing on them. It also includes being within one to two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes – including travelling in a small vehicle.  

You should also self-isolate if you have Covid symptoms, such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, if you or anyone you live with test positive for Covid, or if someone in your support bubble tests positive and you have been in close contact.

England footballers Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell will now have to self-isolate until next Monday after chatting in the tunnel at Wembley Stadium for 15 minutes with Covid-carrying Scotland player Billy Gilmour following their Euro 2020 match four days ago.

The English Football Association said it had taken the decision today ‘in consultation with Public Health England’, meaning the duo will miss both tonight’s final group match against Czech Republic and almost certainly the second round game early next week too.

But Scotland’s players will not be self isolating – with no players from the team needing to do so under Uefa rules, because none are defined as ‘close contacts’ under PHE regulations – despite them playing together.

The move prompted a fierce backlash, with former England star Gary Lineker saying: ‘Ridiculous. Just test them’ and Gary Neville tweeting: ‘Absolute joke!’ 

The FA insisted today that this was not their decision, and that they were following strict PHE rules. However, it comes after PHE indicated yesterday that any decision on players isolating would be made by the FA. 

None of Scotland’s players will quarantine – despite team-mates sharing the same dressing room and hotel as Gilmour and hugging each other after the match, while captain Andy Robertson and midfielder McGinn played table tennis with Gilmour over the weekend. 

If England finish second in Group D, they will play their last-16 match next Monday – but if they come first then it will be next Tuesday, meaning the players’ availability for the next round could depend on tonight’s result. 

Confusion has enveloped the competition over Uefa rules that state when players have to isolate for close contact with a Covid carrier, after Gilmour was forced to quarantine for ten days following a positive test.

England medics initially put Mount and Chilwell, who play with Gilmour at Chelsea, into quarantine as a precaution after all three hugged at the end of Friday’s clash and met again in the tunnel area after the game.

But an FA spokesman then said today: ‘We can confirm that Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount must isolate up to and including next Monday, June 28. This decision has been taken in consultation with Public Health England.

‘The pair were confirmed overnight as close contacts of Scotland’s Billy Gilmour after his positive test following last Friday’s match. Chilwell and Mount will isolate and train individually in private areas at England’s training base St George’s Park, with the rest of the squad returning there after tonight’s fixture against Czech Republic at Wembley. We will continue to follow all Covid-19 protocols and the Uefa testing regime, while remaining in close contact with PHE. 

‘The entire England squad and staff had lateral flow tests on Monday and all were again negative, as was the case with Sunday’s Uefa pre-match PCR tests. Further tests will be carried out as and when appropriate.’ 

The UK Government advises the public to self-isolate if they have has had ‘face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre’ of someone who has tested positive. 

England have already qualified for the knockout phase after going through last night without kicking a ball due to other results, while Scotland have to beat Croatia this evening at Hampden Park to make it through. 

England manager Gareth Southgate had said a final decision on whether Mount and Chilwell could play in tonight’s match against the Czech Republic would be taken this morning, with talks ongoing with PHE. 

PHE can issue advice, but it had said the FA would decide to tell players to isolate if they were not ‘close contacts’.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic admitted all of his players have been ‘afraid’ amid the ‘psychological pressure and uncertainty’ caused by isolation rules, but the full squad have tested negative every third day at the tournament.  

England players all returned further negative tests yesterday, and a frustrated Southgate said at the time: ‘I don’t want to cause a drama for Scotland but if you’re all in the dressing room together where does everything stand?

Billy Gilmour was seen hugging two Chelsea team-mates, Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount, after Friday’s match at Wembley

England stars Mason Mount (pictured here with Gilmour on Friday night) and Ben Chilwell have been forced to self-isolate

England stars Mason Mount (pictured here with Gilmour on Friday night) and Ben Chilwell have been forced to self-isolate

‘I don’t know is the honest answer to that. Our medical people are dealing with all of this. I was on the training pitch when I found out, so we’d just literally finished training.

‘In terms of the team, we’ll need to go through details with the players in the morning really, so we’ll have to know by first thing in the morning of their availability and if not we’ll just have to play on without them.’ 

Gareth Southgate called for footballers to get their jabs three months ago ‘but was shouted down’

England manager Gareth Southgate during training drills at Hotspur Way Training Ground in London yesterday

England manager Gareth Southgate during training drills at Hotspur Way Training Ground in London yesterday

Gareth Southgate called for footballers to be vaccinated three months ago amid concerns over the risks of contracting Covid-19 while playing in the pandemic.

The England manager said yesterday: ‘In terms of the vaccinations, you need to go back to my suggestions in March around that where I was fairly firmly shouted down for daring to suggest anything of the sort.

‘I did propose it but at the time I also said I totally understood where we stand in the pecking order for vaccinations. In actual fact the vaccinations wouldn’t stop you catching the virus so it might not necessarily have stopped this situation in fairness.’

According to the Daily Telegraph, Southgate added: ‘I just made an observation that I thought given the tournament, given that we were asking professional sportspeople to go into these sorts of events and travel, and go back home to their families, that there would be a point where they were at greater risk of catching the virus than others.

‘But, look, that ship’s sailed and, as I said, even if we had the vaccine – you know I’m old enough, I’ve had both vaccines now – I’m told you can still catch it, the different variants, it’s just less dangerous.

‘The reality is moving forward, I don’t think we’ll be in a situation where a positive test rules you out because I think we’ll be living with it, like we’ve lived with flu.’

He added: ‘I’ve been updated as regularly as I can be which is every hour or so when there’s a little bit more information and we have to accept whatever the situation is and adapt to it. That’s the world we’re all living in, across every family and every sport and every business.’

And former England goalkeeper David Seaman told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today: ‘Scotland have come in on a coach together, they’re in a dressing room, so I just don’t understand why it’s two England players that have to isolate… and no one from Scotland, because surely the guys from Scotland have had a lot more contact with Billy Gilmour.’ 

It comes as England qualified for the knockout phase last night without kicking a ball on a day that Mount and Chilwell went into isolation after Gilmour tested positive three days after the Scotland game at Wembley. 

Speaking on Good Morning Britain this morning, celebrity GP Dr Hilary Jones pointed out that there was an argument to say the whole Scotland team should be self-isolating and not playing tonight.

He said the incubation period for Covid-19 is five days, which is potentially why the England players will not be playing in tonight’s match after coming in contact with Gilmour on Friday night.

Dr Hilary said: ‘If you look at the definition of close contact it’s 15 consecutive minutes within two metres of contact with someone who’s tested positive, so they could argue it wasn’t 15 consecutive minutes.

‘CDC in America say it could be 15 minutes over a whole 24 hour period in which case the whole Scotland team would have been exposed so the Scotland team should be self-isolating in theory.’

‘In theory, they should self-isolate for longer and they shouldn’t be playing tonight and they should be separated from the England team but we know that’s not going to happen don’t we?

‘Because football seems to not abide by any of the rules. If you look at the crowds, if you look at what’s going on in the pitch, there’s close contact all the time it’s making a nonsense of what we’re asking everybody else to do.’ 

And Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today: ‘The rules, with respect to the Scotland team playing in Scotland are written by and a matter for Public Health Scotland, and I’m assured that the Scotland team are following them assiduously and that is a matter for the Scotland manager. 

‘But I also very much hope we can keep this competition going because it’s bringing joy to so many people.’

He added: ‘Throughout the pandemic we’ve had specific rules for elite sports to make sure that those sports can carry on. 

‘All the way through this winter, the Premier League continued for instance, the Scottish Football League continued, and it did so by having specific testing regimes, and specific rules around it, and I’m assured that the Scotland team are following those rules.’ 

Will Scotland boss Steve Clarke now have to self-isolate? The manager was seen speaking to Gilmour face-to-face following the match at Wembley on Friday night

Scotland boss Steve Clarke speaks to Billy Gilmour during the match at Wembley

Scotland boss Steve Clarke was seen speaking to Gilmour face-to-face following the match at Wembley on Friday night

Billy Gilmour (far right) celebrates with Scotland teammates after he helped his side to a 0-0 draw against England on Friday

Billy Gilmour (far right) celebrates with Scotland teammates after he helped his side to a 0-0 draw against England on Friday

Jim Weems, club doctor at Oldham Athletic FC, told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘The players at the end of the match were doing what they normally do, but perhaps it’s a wake-up call – players need to be reminded that they’re in a privileged position that they’re playing in this tournament at all.

How did England qualify for the knockout stage last night without playing?

England made it through to the Euro 2020 knockout phase last night without kicking a ball as any stress over qualification was removed by results elsewhere.

Four of the best third-placed teams at the rearranged Euros progress to the knockout phase.

And England’s four-point haul is now guaranteed to put them in that bracket whatever happens against the group-leading Czech Republic in tonight’s match.

Belgium and Holland topped their respective groups with victories against Finland and North Macedonia on Monday, while Denmark thumped Russia to progress and Austria saw off Ukraine to also finish second in their group.

That left Finland and Ukraine in third place in Groups B and C respectively on three points each – meaning England, Switzerland, Sweden, Czech Republic and France can celebrate reaching the last 16.

Tonight’s fixtures are:

  • England v Czech Republic (8pm, Wembley, ITV)
  • Scotland v Croatia (8pm, Hampden, ITV4) 

‘It just goes down to what guidance are they going to follow – are they going to follow the Public Health England guidance, are they going to go with WHO (World Health Organization) guidance – there are discrepancies between the two as to what constitutes close contact.

‘So in this country we’re talking about face-to-face contact – if you’ve been coughed on, or had a face-to-face conversation within one metre and you could say the interactions of the players at the end of the game would tick that box.

‘Or within one metre for a minute, no face-to-face contact, or two metres in the same room as someone for more than 15 minutes, and that’s over the course of the day, so you’d have to think that the England and the Scotland squads and all of the squads in the tournament are treated as bubbles.’

The Scottish Football Association announced yesterday morning that 20-year-old midfielder Gilmour had returned a positive Covid-19 result and would miss tonight’s crunch Group D encounter with Croatia.

Gilmour helped boost Scotland’s qualification hopes with a man-of-the-match display in Friday’s 0-0 draw at Wembley, where he interacted with Chelsea team-mates Mount and Chilwell. 

The fact Gilmour’s positive result appears to be having a bigger impact on the Three Lions than Scotland has left Gareth Southgate confused, but any stress over qualification was removed by results elsewhere yesterday.

Four of the best third-placed teams at the rearranged Euros progress to the knockout phase, with England’s four-point haul now guaranteed to put them in that bracket whatever happens against the pool-leading Czechs.

Belgium and Holland topped their respective groups with victories against Finland and North Macedonia yesterday, while Denmark beat Russia to progress and Austria saw off Ukraine to also finish second in their group.

That left Finland and Ukraine in third place in Groups B and C respectively on three points each – meaning England, Switzerland, Sweden, Czech Republic and France can celebrate reaching the last 16.

Billy Gilmour shakes hands with Scotland teammate Stuart Armstrong after he is substituted during his side's 0-0 draw with England at Wembley

Referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz speaks to Billy Gilmour during the match against England on Friday night

Billy Gilmour shakes hands with Scotland teammate Stuart Armstrong (pictured left) after he is substituted during his side’s 0-0 draw with England at Wembley. Referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (pictured right) speaks to Gilmour during the match

Southgate is braced to be without Mount and Chilwell for tonight’s match, despite the pair producing negative lateral-flow tests on Monday afternoon following negative results in Sunday’s round of UEFA pre-match PCR tests.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic (left) admits his squad has been gripped by Covid anxiety

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic (pictured in Glasgow yesterday) has admitted his squad has been gripped by Covid anxiety

Asked about the duo’s availability for the group decider, the England manager said: ‘Well, we don’t know at the moment.

‘There’s obviously got to be quite a doubt, but there’s still a lot of discussions and investigations going on behind the scenes, so at the moment they’re isolating and we just have to find out over the last 12 hours or so.’ 

Prince William will be at Wembley tonight. 

A PHE spokesman said that it was ‘working with the FA to identify close contacts of Billy Gilmour and any risk to other players and staff’, and indicated any decision to tell players from the England team to isolate was made by the Football Association. 

Southgate, who had been due to have Mount alongside him at the pre-match press conference yesterday evening, said: ‘We had worked with the players this morning on the training pitch so then of course we find out when we finish that this is the situation.

‘I can’t say it isn’t disruptive. We don’t really know at this point whether they might be OK for (Tuesday) or they could be out for 10 days so there are a lot of unknowns frankly at this moment in time.’

Among the many things Southgate is trying to get his head around is how England are having to prepare without two players whereas Scotland have avoided further absences despite Gilmour’s positive test being in their camp.

Steve Clarke’s men have been under the PHE umbrella, having stayed in Darlington and used Middlesbrough’s training ground – the same facilities used by England during their pre-Euros training base. 

When could Billy Gilmour have caught Covid?

It’s difficult to know exactly when the Scottish starlet contracted Covid.

It generally takes four to five days for the virus to ‘incubate’ in someone before they start shedding enough to test positive.  This would suggest Gilmour, who produced a positive result on Sunday, picked up the virus sometime last week.

The midfielder would have tested negative last Wednesday, two days ahead of Scotland’s clash with England, because UEFA rules mean all players, coaches and supporting staff need to take a swab 48 hours before each match.

It’s possible that Gilmour was technically infected with the virus at that point and that it had not yet multiplied in his system enough to show up on the test. If this was the case, then it is also possible that the Chelsea star was infectious by the time he took to the pitch at Wembley on Friday evening.

While UEFA requires a negative test two days before each match, players are only checked for their temperature on matchday. Many infected people go undetected by temperature checks because only a handful of Covid patients suffer a fever. Fit and healthily 20-year-olds like Gilmour are much more likely to be symptomless while infected.

There is a slim chance that Gilmour’s positive result on Sunday was a ‘false positive’, when the test wrongly tells a person they are infectious. While the PCR method is highly accurate, some studies have shown they can give a false positive up to 4 per cent of the time.

UEFA’s stringent testing protocols stipulate that players cannot challenge a positive PCR test or ask for it to be redone. However, assuming that Gilmour was infected at the time of the England game, it raises concerns that others could also have contracted the virus.

Gilmour was seen hugging some of his Chelsea teammates after the match -and there could now be doubts over both Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount prior to England’s final group game against the Czech Republic tomorrow. He was also seen embracing his Scotland teammates and manager Steve Clarke on the pitch.

Covid finds it easier to spread when people come into close contact with others, which is why we were urged not to hug loved ones and friends for months during lockdown. But being outdoors in the fresh air significantly reduces the likelihood of the virus being able to jump from person to person.

However, Gilmour was also recorded celebrating with teammates in the changing rooms and interacting with his parents in the stands on Friday night.

Footage then surfaced of the Glaswegian playing table tennis in close proximity with members of the Scotland squad at the team hotel over the weekend. 

UEFA has stressed that all 26 England players and the support team, as well the rest of the Scotland squad, returned negative results after the latest round of PCR testing yesterday. 

But the virus’ incubation period means there is still a risk some of them may have caught the disease.

Ex-England striker Gary Lineker shared confusion about the differing impact on the sides following news that Mount and Chilwell were isolating.

‘This is odd,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘They may have had close contact with Billy Gilmour, but if they continue to test negative surely they can play.

‘Otherwise surely every single Scottish player, who all hugged Gilmour after the game, won’t be allowed to play either. Makes no sense.’

But Southgate – who expressed sympathy for Scotland counterpart Clarke following Gilmour’s positive test – is not letting his attention waver, saying in tournaments ‘you have to adapt, you have to respond’.

Asked why it just Mount and Chilwell, who were pictured embracing Gilmour on Friday, having to isolate, the England boss said: ‘I don’t know all of the factors behind that.

‘Clearly it’s nothing to do with being on the pitch so that’s why there is no issue with teams training, for example.

‘Going to when the Premier League restarted training and matches were shown to be a situation where there weren’t contacts for long enough for that to be a risk, so we’re just waiting to hear more information at this moment in time.’

He added: ‘It would be something to do with chatting after the game, but I have no idea of all the detail. That’s why we’ve taken the decision at this point to isolate them. That’s why we’re having to have the discussions with Public Health England, as I understand it.’ 

Southgate will, though, make sure England’s players are reminded of their duties. ‘After what’s happened, I don’t think they will need us to tell them but for sure we will,’ he said.

‘I think you can see evidence at every match of interactions. I think these sorts of things do serve as a reminder that we are under a different sort of spotlight to most parts of the community and at higher risk of being forced to miss matches or whatever else.’ 

While Gilmour has entered ten days of isolation ahead of the winner-takes-all Group D fixture between Croatia and Scotland tonight, no close contacts have been established within the remainder of Steve Clarke’s squad.

Croatia’s Dalic feels wider Covid regulations have already given his country a raw deal at the tournament and hs is on high alert in case of any further complications.

‘There is a pressure for all of us, lasting for a month relating to this situation,’ said the 54-year-old, assessing playing the tournament within a pandemic.

‘Every third day, we go through the tests. There is psychological pressure and uncertainty. So we are afraid something would happen, they test positive and we all end up isolating and having those serious issues. 

‘I hope nobody else is positive. I don’t want this to expand. Hopefully, it’s just a single case.

‘We are concerned but we have to do this match. We have to play and try to win the three points. 

‘We have just arrived in Glasgow, had lunch and we are due to have a meeting. But I don’t expect anyone to say they don’t want to play.

‘All of them are afraid but, nonetheless, we have to play, concentrate on the game and forget everything else. That’s how the situation is for this entire Euros. All of us have been negative until now.

‘We are taking all the precautions and implementing all the measures. But we just have to see what happens.’

The Scottish Government were bemused when Croatia cited concerns over the strictness of close-contact regulations as a reason for abandoning a planned training camp in St Andrews. 

Croatia face Scotland in a winner-takes-all Group D fixture at Hampden Park tonight

Croatia face Scotland in a winner-takes-all Group D fixture at Hampden Park tonight

Dalic’s squad have instead trained at Rovinj in their homeland and flown to the UK for each of their three group matches.

A 1-0 defeat to England and a 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic means Croatia have to beat Scotland to progress. And Dalic is upset that quarantine rules will see very few of their fans inside Hampden.

‘We always knew the third match would be decisive,’ he said. ‘This is our last chance and we’re going to try to take it.

‘I keep saying it — we are at a disadvantage. We are harmed because we don’t have our fans here. We are much better with our supporters behind us. It’s not fair.

‘We have to travel, we are in isolation all the time — and they have told us if one of us is positive then we all go into isolation. We’re afraid of all these things and being told we are not allowed to do this and that.

‘I would not like to comment and say something that isn’t related to the field. The conditions should be the same for all, but they are not the same for all.

‘Nonetheless, I wish Gilmour a good recovery and that nobody else ends up positive with Covid because that would make things difficult.’

Dalic doesn’t expect Scotland to be critically weakened by the Chelsea youngster’s absence. ‘Any player missing is something that is not good for the team,’ he added. ‘He didn’t start in the initial line-up but played the last match.

‘Scotland have other players, maybe more experienced players, that will replace him. So I don’t think it’s a great blow to Scotland because they are a good team with great players.

‘They have shown they are in good form. They drew with Holland 2-2 and only lost a goal in the last minutes. Against England, they played well away from home in front of the English fans. They have a lot of motivation, a lot of self-confidence.

‘Against the Czech Republic, they created some very good chances and didn’t deserve to lose.This will be a very difficult game. Scotland are a strong team, they can be physical and they have a lot of power.

‘Even so, we want to achieve success and will be fighting very hard to do it. We will have to be patient and take our chances.’ 

An FA spokesman said: ‘As a precaution at this time and in consultation with Public Health England, Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount are isolating after interaction with Scotland player Billy Gilmour at Friday’s match.

‘The pair will be kept away from the rest of the England players and wider support team, pending further discussions with PHE.’ 

Separately, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the final of the tournament should not be held in Wembley given the renewed surge in coronavirus cases in England.

Speaking in Berlin: ‘I support ensuring that the final does not take place in a country where the risk of infection is of course very high.’


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