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Neil Lennon and 13 Celtic players told to self-isolate

Fresh criticism from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after Celtic's controversial trip to Dubai.

Neil Lennon and 13 Celtic players told to self-isolate SNS Group

Celtic have been told that 13 players and three backroom staff -including manager Neil Lennon – must self-isolate amid fresh criticism over their training camp in Dubai.

The club will play Hibs in a Premiership fixture on Monday night – their first game since the trip, which has been condemned by the First Minister.

Celtic confirmed defender Christopher Jullien had tested positive for Covid-19 on their return, with his ‘close contacts’ now having to isolate.

They include 13 players who have not yet been named, Lennon, assistant manager John Kennedy and another backroom staff member.

Celtic said the club was “hugely disappointed” by the decision and insisted it had done everything possible to keep players and staff safe.

Dubai was added to the quarantine list at the weekend, with anyone who has travelled to Scotland since January 3 asked to isolate.

While professional sport is exempt from many quarantine rules, talks were held between Celtic and the government after Jullien tested positive, with an NHS team identifying the close contacts.

Nicola Sturgeon again criticised the trip at her daily briefing on Monday after pictures emerged which suggested players had breached social distancing measures while relaxing at their hotel.

The First Minister said she doubted whether the training camp was essential, with rules allowing exemptions for professional sport now set to be reviewed.

She said: “This whole episode should underline how serious the situation we are in right now is and why everyone – including football – should be erring on the side of caution.

“I know fans of other clubs feel very strongly that the whole of football should not pay the price for the actions of any one club, whoever they may be, and I agree with that.

“Of course, a situation like this does make it essential for us to review the rules, including around travel exemptions, and that is what we will be doing.

“But, as we do, I would hope Celtic themselves will reflect seriously on all of this.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Cup and lower league football was suspended for at least three weeks on Monday in a bid to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Celtic pledged to fulfil their fixtures while players and staff were self-isolating.

The club said: “Clearly we are hugely disappointed, as we know our supporters will be.

“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.    

“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 (full lockdown) 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 has done everything it can to ensure we have in place the very best procedures and protocols. From the outset of the pandemic, Celtic has worked closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish football and we will continue to do so.”