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Elite athletes travelling back from 'red list' countries 'will have to quarantine'

Arsenal are set scheduled to travel to Portugal for the opening leg of their last-32 Europa League tie against Benfica on February 18.

Premier League stars returning to England after playing World Cup qualifiers in Portugal and South America will be sent to quarantine hotels for 10 days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that travellers heading back to the UK from "red list" countries will be "met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine".

The PA news agency understands that there will be no exemptions for elite sporting athletes.

The Prime Minister said there would be
The Prime Minister said there would be no exceptions (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

The 30 destinations on the Government's red list covers all of South America, southern Africa and Portugal.

Portugal host Azerbaijan on March 24, while Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia and Brazil will also resume their World Cup qualifying campaigns in the same week.

Arsenal are also set to travel to Lisbon for the opening leg of their last-32 Europa League tie against Benfica on February 18.

The return leg is due to be played at the Emirates Stadium the following week, but, under the guidelines, all of the north London club's travelling party to Portugal would be subjected to 10 days of hotel quarantine.

Arsenal's Europa League campaign could be disrupted
Arsenal's Europa League campaign could be disrupted (Brian Lawless/PA)

That would heavily disrupt the second leg and Arsenal's Premier League fixtures against Manchester City (February 21) and Leicester (February 27).

The Gunners are reportedly keen to play the opening rubber at a neutral venue but Benfica are unlikely to want the fixture moved.

The Home Office said the rules will apply to people arriving from countries where non-UK residents are already banned from entering the UK.

Confirming the legislation, Johnson said: "In order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in Government-provided accommodation such as hotels for 10 days, without exception."

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