News has just broke, in the last half hour, that 13 Celtic players and three members of staff will need to self-isolate and thus miss out on tonight’s match against Hibernian.
The game is still set to go ahead at Celtic Park at 7.45pm.
Celtic trail Rangers by 22 points in the league table and thus defeat would confirm the end to what already looks like a failed title challenge.
The news comes just three days after Celtic returned from a winter training camp in Dubai, a camp for which they received huge criticism from fans, the media and government alike.
In response to the damning news, the club have released the following statement on their official website.
“Celtic Football Club confirmed today that Christopher Jullien has tested positive for Covid-19 and is self-isolating at home. We wish Christopher a speedy recovery.
“While all of the other members of the squad and backroom team have tested negative, we have been informed by the authorities that, having been deemed ‘close contacts’, Celtic manager Neil Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players will be required to self-isolate on a precautionary basis as required by the current regulations.
“The Club would like to thank the Scottish FA, JRG and the Scottish Government for their assistance in managing this case. Celtic will, of course, fulfill its fixture against Hibernian this evening.
“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 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.”
Odds are set to be slashed on Hibernian winning the match. The visitors were previously ranked as 9/2 outsiders on Sky Bet, but now all betting has been suspended as the betting company recalculates its pricing.
Serious questions need to be asked in the aftermath of yet another COVID issue within Scottish football. Christopher Jullien was the positive case, yet he is ruled out through injury for the next three to four months, so one has to wonder why he was in contact with his teammates given the circumstances.
There are also some questions around other clubs in the SPFL who had positive cases but weren’t deemed to be close contacts with others. Meanwhile, teams such as Kilmarnock had matches postponed following an outbreak of the virus within the club, whereas it looks like Celtic won’t have the same luxury. That said, it looks like things have been handled poorly by the Celtic hierarchy and are reaping what they sow.