Celtic will honour Monday night’s Scottish Premiership fixture with Hibernian, even though head coach Neil Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players have been forced to isolate following Christopher Jullien’s positive coronavirus test on the squad’s return from a controversial trip to Dubai.
The champions have again defended the warm-weather training break, following fresh criticism from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Dubai has since been added to the country’s quarantine list, if people have travelled from there.
“The contacts were identified during the period from Wednesday last week, primarily around flight and team coach travel, during which time Celtic applied the same rigorous protocols used for pre-season training camps, UEFA match travel and for all domestic match arrangements in Scotland”, said a statement from the club.
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These protocols have served us well in the past, as the club has not had one positive case in our own ‘bubble’ until now. As we have already stated, Celtic’s decision to travel to Dubai for a training camp was for performance reasons. Whilst we were in Dubai, the announcements made on January 4 significantly changed the Covid landscape.
“The reality is that a case could well have occurred had the team remained in Scotland, as other cases have done in Scottish football and across UK sport in the past week.”
Celtic’s announcement was made hours after the Scottish Football Association board suspended all professional football from the SPFL’s League One and below, because of the continued rise in Covid-19 infections.
Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said she was “disappointed and frustrated” that she was once again having to respond to questions about football.
"As I have said before, I do have doubts based on how the club itself described it, doubts about whether the club's trip to Dubai was really essential” said the First Minister.
And I had doubts based on some pictures I saw over whether adherence to bubble rules was strict enough.
"It is for the football authorities to decide whether any further action is necessary, but this whole episode should underline the situation we are in right now is, and why everyone, including football, should be erring on the side of caution.
"I hope Celtic themselves will reflect seriously on all of this."
The Scottish champions go into tonight’s match second in the table and 22 points behind leaders Rangers.
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