Ben Chilwell (right) and Mason Mount will miss England's final group game against Czech Republic
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have been ruled out of England’s European Championship clash with the Czech Republic on Tuesday and must remain in isolation until the start of next week.
England’s preparations for their final Group D match were thrown into chaos on Monday when it emerged the Chelsea pair had been in contact with Scotland’s Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus.
On Tuesday, the FA confirmed Mount and Chilwell "must isolate up to and including next Monday (June 28)". Steve Clarke’s squad have been given the green light to continue only without Gilmour for the crunch match against Croatia.
Telegraph Sport looks into why the two countries’ Covid protocols appear to differ – and what happens next.
How long will Billy Gilmour, Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell be in isolation?
The three Chelsea team-mates are all now in quarantine until next week following updated guidance from Public Health England. Gilmour has been isolated since his positive Covid test was returned on Monday morning. As he is asymptomatic, and tested twice weekly, he cannot backdate a 10-day quarantine any further.
That means he is set to miss not only Scotland’s final group game against Croatia but any potential last-16 tie if they qualify. He will be allowed to return if Scotland reach the quarter-finals.
Mount and Chilwell were separated from the England squad by Monday afternoon after investigations by the Football Association established they had been in prolonged contact with Gilmour after the goalless draw with Scotland at Wembley on Friday. After detailed consultation with Public Health England on Tuesday, the pair were ruled out of the Czech Republic match, and told they must "must isolate up to and including next Monday".
The decision makes them a significant doubt for the last-16 stages. If England are group winners, they play on Tuesday, but a draw or defeat against Czech Republic could see them play on Monday.
How did Gilmour catch the virus?
This is a huge question given Euro 2020 squads are meant to be in even stricter bubbles than players have been used to, ones in which they are not allowed contact with friends or family.
Paul Pogba broke those rules when he mingled with the crowd after France’s win over Germany and the Scotland management will be investigating whether a similar breach occurred. At his pre-Croatia press conference, Steve Clarke said the medical staff had "no idea" how Gilmour caught coronavirus while within the bubble.
Given the three to four day likely transmission rate, the most likely scenario is Gilmour caught it while travelling to London or at the hotel pre or post-match. Immunologist Denis Kinane, co-founder of Cignpost Diagnostics which works with the Scottish FA, said the twice-weekly testing regime was a significant cause for hope that Gilmour was not infectious at Wembley on Friday.
Billy Gilmour was Scotland's star man against England at Wembley
Why are no other Scotland players isolating but England’s are?
The decision to force players into isolation hinged on whether they were deemed a "close contact" of Gilmour’s in recent days. The likes of Gary Lineker have described apparent differences in Covid protocols as "odd", but the Scottish FA told Telegraph Sport it was acting under specific instructions from Public Health England.
A video, subsequently deleted from Instagram, shows Gilmour playing table tennis with leading team-mates Andy Robertson and John McGinn, but the Scottish FA said PHE were satisfied that "no close contacts have been identified". PHE sources, meanwhile, confirmed England’s decision to separate Chilwell and Mount was initially led by the FA.
Under Government rules, examples of close contact can include: living in the same household; a face-to-face conversation within one metre; being within one metre for a minute or longer; being within two metres for more than 15 minutes. Travelling in the same vehicle or plane can also be deemed close contact. Because elite football is operating in a semi-bubble and players are tested so frequently, more leeway is provided within bubbles when it comes to these definitions.
Has the FA over-reacted?
With the entire squad having tested negative since Friday, the FA appears to have adopted an ultra-cautious approach given the dire consequences of a mass outbreak. The FA initially announced Mount and Chilwell would isolate as a “precaution” after they hugged Chelsea team-mate Gilmour and spent an extended period in the tunnel with him on Friday.
However, the subsequent decision after consultation with PHE to order Chilwell and Mount into isolation until June 28 means authorities are now convinced England made the right decision. The FA is yet to explain fully how the Chelsea trio came to spend so much time together.
The decision led by PHE to extend quarantine has caught even experts by surprise. Kinane, who also screens golfers on the PGA European Tour, had said the English were exerting a "belt and braces" approach, and he expected Mount and Chilwell to undergo an extra PCR test on Tuesday morning before potentially being cleared to play against the Czechs. Unlike Scotland, England have yet to suffer a single infection since the tournament began.
Scotland under scrutiny as Billy Gilmour’s team-mates get all clear for Euro 2020 decider
How secure was Scotland’s bubble?
Kinane, who had been in touch with Scotland’s chief medical officer, said the team’s bubble was as secure as any other at Euro 2020. There had already been a previous outbreak within the bubble – squad member John Fleck tested positive for coronavirus before the tournament, and missed the 2-2 friendly draw with the Netherlands along with six close contacts.
They returned in time for the 1-0 friendly win over Luxembourg and Fleck was available for Scotland’s 2-0 defeat by the Croatia and the draw with England. Scotland’s centre-back Liam Cooper, who has previously contracted Covid, insisted it "feels 100 per cent safe in our camp". "We all stick to the precautions," he added.
Were Scotland or England players vaccinated?
No. Unlike Olympic athletes and the British and Irish Lions rugby squad, footballers living in Britain were not allowed to jump the vaccine queue. Given the acceleration of the rollout in recent days, it could be argued in hindsight that this was a mistake. However, because vaccination can make people feel unwell, there may have been a reluctance from clubs to give their players jabs before the end of the season.
Should footballers now be vaccinated?
Gareth Southgate believes vaccinated footballers will eventually be able to play on even if they test positive – but the jab would have made little difference to tournament rules as they stand. Players can still be infectious with the jab and, with such a low proportion of players thought to have had it, it is likely Public Health England would advise affected players to isolate. The England manager had called for footballers to be vaccinated back in March because of the risks attached to playing football during the coronavirus pandemic.
On whether or not players at the European Championships should have been vaccinated, Southgate said: "In terms of vaccinations, you need to go back to my suggestions in March around that, when I was fairly firmly shouted down for daring to suggest anything of the sort. 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. But we’re not at that point and, of course, across the rest of Europe and the rest of the world the situation is different in terms of the numbers of people that are vaccinated and the dangers of it."
Will Uefa or the FA introduce stricter rules regarding mixing between sides?
For England and Scotland, shirt swapping and celebrations on Tuesday may be tempered – but it is unlikely Uefa and FA will introduce any new rules midway through the tournament. Public health experts said it was an inevitability that a handful of outbreaks would take place during the competition. Unless numbers escalate in the coming days, the governing bodies are unlikely to intervene.