Arsenal players and staff members were reportedly surprised by the rigour of the police earlier this month in checking they were complying with coronavirus quarantine rules when they returned from Greece after beating Benfica in the Europa League.
The Gunners’ ‘home’ leg of their last-32 tie was played at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens on February 25 due to Covid-19 restrictions.
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It was the first time Mikel Arteta’s side were subjected to the government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme, whereby anyone entering England from abroad must quarantine for ten days or test negative on the fifth day of that quarantine – thereby reducing the isolation period.
Elite sportspeople are not exempt from the rule but can continue to train and play in their bio-secure coronavirus bubbles.
And The Athletic report that at least ten Arsenal players and staff receieved check-up phone calls or visits from the police at home or at work.
Refusal to follow the rules can be met with a fine of up to £10,000 but all employees are said to have complied with the government mandated restrictions.
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There was however some dismay due to the intense level of monitoring, seemingly limited to Arsenal among Premier League teams.
They are believed to be the only top flight team to have been subjected to the rigorous checks, with players and staff at other clubs in Europa League or Champions League competition this month – Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United – not experiencing anything like the intense scrutiny.
Arsenal’s travelling group had been tested five times in eight days before returning to England and filled out passenger locator forms.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “Where Public Health England are unable to contact individuals who have travelled to the UK from overseas, they make a referral to the relevant police force. In such instances, officers endeavour to ensure that individuals have been provided with the correct information, are complying with the requirement to stay home outside of any exempted window, have completed the required tests on the correct dates and have satisfied the ‘test to release’ criteria.”
The report claims players were sharing messages via WhatsApp explaining their shock at police officers turning up at their doors to check on them.