Matt Hancock flounders over isolation rules for footballers – 'Euros bringing so much joy'

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read

Watch: Matt Hancock flounders over COVID isolation rules for footballers

This is the moment Matt Hancock flounders over coronavirus isolation rules for footballers amid the confusing saga surrounding Billy Gilmour, Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell.

After Scotland’s Gilmour tested positive for COVID-19, it emerged England’s Mount and Chilwell – who are Gilmour’s club team-mates at Chelsea – had interacted with him after the Euro 2020 game at Wembley on Friday.

Mount and Chilwell have now been forced to isolate until Monday, though no other Scotland players have been required to do so despite having been in closer proximity to Gilmour over the course of the tournament.

Under current rules, members of the public who comes into contact with a COVID carrier must complete a 10-day self-isolation period if contacted by the test and trace system. This is regardless of whether they test negative for the virus, as Mount and Chilwell did.

Matt Hancock was grilled about the isolation saga involving Scotland's Billy Gilmour and England's Mason Mount, pictured inset, as well as England's Ben Chilwell. (@GMB/Getty Images)
Matt Hancock was grilled about the isolation saga involving Scotland's Billy Gilmour and England's Mason Mount, pictured inset, as well as England's Ben Chilwell. (@GMB/Getty Images)

Amid confusion over why no Scotland players have been forced to isolate, health secretary Hancock, appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, was asked if the high-profile tournament is “trumping” rules which apply to everyone else.

He said: “Well, 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 the Scotland team are following them assiduously, and that is a matter for the Scotland manager.

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

PORTO, PORTUGAL - MAY 29: (L - R) Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour of Chelsea celebrate winning the Champions League following the UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at Estadio do Dragao on May 29, 2021 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Alex Caparros - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour are Chelsea team-mates and came into contact after England and Scotland's Euro 2020 match on Friday. (Getty Images)

However, the Scotland squad came under the umbrella of Public Health England (PHE) – not Public Health Scotland – as it stayed in Darlington and used Middlesbrough FC's training ground.

PHE had said on Monday that it was "working with the [English] FA to identify close contacts of Billy Gilmour".

When Yahoo News UK asked the agency on Tuesday why his Scotland team-mates were not classed as close contacts, PHE said it's the Scottish FA's medical team which "defines who needs to isolate" and that "PHE acts in an advisory role".

It was the English FA, meanwhile, which ultimately decided to send Mount and Chilwell into self-isolation as a precaution.

It was put to Hancock that everyone wants “joy” in their lives, and that the authorities are allowing greater priority to footballers playing in the tournament.

Hancock didn’t address this, but said exemptions have been made for elite sports to carry on during the pandemic, including during the second and third national lockdowns.

Former Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech, now technical and performance advisor at Chelsea, questioned the logic of the scenario.

Writing on Instagram, Cech said: “Please could someone help me understand how is it possible Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell – both with negative tests – have to isolate after they got in contact with Billy Gilmour.

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“While the entire Scottish team who shared the dressing room, hotel, coach and plane while travelling, dinning [sic] room, meeting room, is allowed to play the game without any problem because they returned the required negative tests?

“What is the difference between them returning the same test results? It is incomprehensible.”

Watch: Tuesday's Euro 2020 briefing – England and Scotland set for final group games

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