Gareth Southgate is facing an anxious wait over the availability of Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell after admitting his plans for England’s Group D finale against the Czech Republic have been disrupted by the duo being forced to self-isolate.
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The Football Association are in talks with Public Health England (PHE) over whether Mount and Chilwell could feature in Tuesday’s clash at Wembley after their Chelsea teammate Billy Gilmour tested positive for COVID-19 following Friday’s 0-0 draw between England and Scotland.
Gilmour was pictured being greeted by Mount and Chilwell at full-time and although England’s entire squad and staff tested negative today, the pair are now separated from the rest of the group.
An FA statement read: “As a precaution at this time and in consultation with Public Health England [PHE], Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount are isolating after interaction with Scotland player Billy Gilmour at Friday’s match.
“The pair will be kept away from the rest of the England players and wider support team, pending further discussions with PHE.
“The entire squad had lateral flow tests on Monday afternoon and all were again negative, as was the case with Sunday’s UEFA pre-match PCR tests.
“We will continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols and the UEFA testing regime, while remaining in close contact with PHE.”
Southgate learned the news after taking charge of his final pre-match training session at Tottenham’s Hotspur Way facility on Monday and admitted he will delay naming his team until Tuesday morning as he awaits further information.
“There’s obviously got to be quite a doubt [Mount and Chilwell can play] but there are still discussions and investigations going on behind the scenes,” said the 50-year-old. “They are isolating and we just have to find out over the next 12 hours or so.
“We had worked with the players this morning on the training pitch and then you find out as you finish that this is the situation so I can’t say it isn’t disruptive. Then we don’t really know at this point whether they might be OK for tomorrow or they might be out for 10 days. So there are a lot of unknowns, frankly, at this moment in time.”
It is currently unclear why only Mount and Gilmour are the only players having to isolate. Previously studies have shown the risk of transmission during games and training are extremely low but Gilmour is likely to have been at close quarters with many of the Scotland squad before and after the game.
No other Scotland players are isolating despite an Instagram video of Gilmour — which has since been deleted — appeared to show the midfielder interacting with multiple teammates after the game.
It is likely that Scotland declared Gilmour’s positive test to PHE, who then began a dialogue discussing the possibility of close contacts with other Scotland players.
According to the Scotland FA, it was PHE that have deemed there were no close contacts to Gilmour. PHE then looked externally and Mount and Chilwell were identified as possible candidates for self-isolation given how they interacted with Gilmour.
But, importantly, the England FA were the ones who took the decision to ask them to self-isolate as a precaution. Talks between PHE and the English FA are now centring on whether Gilmour spent enough time with Mount and Gilmour at full-time — it is believed their conversation continued into the tunnel — to fall under the definition of being ‘close contact.’
Asked what the process would be over the next 12 hours, Southgate said: “I don’t have any idea, frankly. Look, I don’t want to cause a drama for Scotland but if you are all in the dressing room together, where does everything stand? I don’t know is the honest answer to that.
“Our medical people are dealing with all of this. I’m being updated as regularly as we can be, which is every hour or so there’s a little bit more information, and we have to accept whatever the situation is and adapt to it.
“Clearly, it is nothing to do with being on the pitch. So that’s why there’s no issue around teams training, for example. Going back to when the Premier League restarted, training and matches were shown to be situations where there weren’t contacts for long enough for that to be a risk.”
Back in March, Southgate called for players to be vaccinated as the United Kingdom’s programme was quick and successfully protecting large swathes of the general public.
The England squad was not vaccinated prior to Euro 2020 and Southgate said: “In terms of the vaccination, I think you need to go back to my suggestions in March about that where I was fairly firmly shouted down for daring to suggest anything of the sort.
“I did propose it but I of course at that time also said I totally understood where we stood in the pecking order for vaccinations and it was more important that the clinically vulnerable and everybody else received those first.
“I felt we were getting to a point where that would have been helpful but in actual fact vaccinations wouldn’t stop you catching the virus so it wouldn’t necessarily avert those situation in fairness.
“I wasn’t involved in any formal conversations. I just made an observation that I thought given the tournament, given that we were asking professional sports people 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 that ship has sailed.”