‘It should be a complete no no’: Public health expert warns Premier League clubs their players could bring deadly Covid variants into the UK if they successfully push for quarantine exemption for stars who travel to red list countries on international duty
- Premier League clubs are seeking special dispensation from the Government
- Public health expert Keith Neal has warned the Government against doing so
- At present many top-flight stars are due to fly to ‘red list’ countries next month
- Clubs are hoping their players can avoid a 10-day quarantine when they return
- Players will have to quarantine if they’ve travelled to any of UK’s banned list
Premier League clubs could be responsible for the deaths of ‘thousands’ should they receive a special exemption from the Government over players returning to the UK from international duty in ‘red list’ countries next month.
That’s the view of a public health expert after it emerged top-flight teams are planning to submit applications to Whitehall for the appropriate dispensation allowing their stars to travel to prohibited destinations without the need for a compulsory 10-day quarantine upon their return.
At present, ‘red-list’ destinations include Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Portugal and South Africa. This would mean the likes of Liverpool’s Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino (all Brazil), Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (Portugal), Everton’s James Rodriguez (Colombia) and Tottenham’s Giovani Lo Celso (Argentina) would be impacted, to name a few.
Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes could miss part of their Premier League season if he is forced to quarantine if he represents Portugal – which is on the UK red list – next month
The same applies to Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker should he represent Brazil in March
It remains to be seen whether Government officials will grant footballers permission to fulfil their international obligations but there is hope an arrangement can be found on the condition players leave their club’s bio-secure bubble and immediately enter their nation’s one.
Currently there is no exemption for elite sportspeople who are returning from red-list destinations and professor Keith Neal, an expert in public health at the University of Nottingham, insists it should stay that way in order to prevent more lives being lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘It is incredibly risky and it is just not worth taking that risk,’ he told Sportsmail.
‘The red list is designed to stop the most serious, dangerous variants. We do not want them in the country full stop. And there are a lot of variants in Brazil.
‘The player would be in airports, planes and hotels. He would meet up with players and staff for those countries, where there are also high rates of infection. It is a complete “no no”.
‘We are vaccinating left, right and centre. We are on track to hammer Covid into the ground. The only threat to coming out of lockdown is around a variant that has escaped the vaccine.
‘If the players want to go and want to quarantine in a hotel when they come back, that’s fine.
‘If they brought in a variant that was actually a vaccine escape it could spread and kill thousands of people.’
Everton’s James Rodriguez would also be impacted as Colombia on the UK’s ‘red list’ at present
As it stands, Government travel restrictions mean players will be required to self-isolate in a hotel for 10 days on their return from international duty if they have flown to a country on the UK’s banned list.
Last week, FIFA issued new guidelines that state clubs do not have to release players where a compulsory quarantine period of five days or more is required on their return.
Some clubs could use FIFA’s rules to prevent players from reporting for duty next month. However, some players have privately expressed to clubs that they would still prefer to represent their countries.
Top-flight clubs fear major disruption to their squads following the conclusion of March’s international fixtures due to the Government regulations.
More than 40 Premier League players are likely to be affected, with the worst hit clubs expected to be Manchester City, Wolves, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham.
As reported earlier this month, an analysis of top-flight players reveals 41 of them have been called up to the affected countries in the last two years. From that, 15 have played for Portugal – including six from Wolves and three from Manchester City.
While those Portuguese players would have to isolate on their return if they played for their national team at home to Azerbaijan on March 24, the rules do not appear to require them to quarantine if they join up with the squad outside of the country.
Portugal travels to Serbia on March 27 and Luxembourg on March 30 and neither of those countries are currently subject to a travel ban.