A string of players based in England are pulling out of international fixtures due to take place in Denmark next week amid concerns over a new strain of COVID-19 that has spread from mink to humans.

The Premier League has told clubs not to release players to play in Denmark, who are due to host Sweden on November 11 and Iceland four days later. The British government has banned all non-UK arrivals from Denmark and state that “unlike other travel to the UK, there will be no exemptions to this quarantine policy” in their guidance.

That stance has also thrown into doubt England’s upcoming Nations League game against Iceland, which is due to take place three days after Iceland play in Copenhagen. The English Football Association [FA] is awaiting clarification from the government as to whether the match can go ahead.

Liverpool are due to visit Midtylland, based in the Jutland region, on December 9 for a Champions League match. UEFA regulations state that the host team must propose a neutral venue if the fixture cannot go ahead as planned due to COVID-19 regulations.

In a statement the Danish football association [DBU] criticised the British response to the new variant of coronavirus found in the North Jutland region. Director Jakob Jensen said he found it “regrettable and frustrating” that talks with the FA and UEFA had brought no agreement over exemptions for Danish players.

“We all have a maximum interest in being responsible to both our own and others’ players and coaches. Safety first. That is why we also work with very detailed UEFA rules, both when we live, travel to and play international matches. 

“We are working hard for and hope that the situation will be resolved as soon as possible so that we can play with our strongest national team in the remaining matches,” said Jensen in a statement.

Previously elite sportspeople in the UK were exempt from quarantine regulations. However any players who travelled to Denmark would be required to isolate for 14 days on their return. For the likes of Pierre-Emeile Hojbjerg that would mean missing crucial upcoming games against Manchester City and Chelsea.

Tottenham have withdrawn Hojbjerg from the two fixtures to be played in Denmark but he could feature in a game against Belgium in Brussels on November 18, Jose Mourinho confirmed. “It looks like we found a solution,” he said. “First match is a friendly, he’s not necessary. Second match in Copenhagen he’s suspended and in the third match Pierre can go to Belgium and represent his country.”

Sources have told CBS Sports that Brentford’s Danish contingent, Henrik Dalsgaard and Mathias Jensen, have not travelled.

The DBU have confirmed that they do not currently expect any of their internationals based in England, a group of seven which also includes Chelsea centre-back Andreas Christensen and Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, to join up with their squad. Instead they have called up nine players, all currently in Denmark with the exception of the Italian-based duo Jens Stryger (Udinese) and Lukas Lerager (Genoa).

“We always have our strongest possible national team,” said Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand. “If the situation is not resolved we look forward to seeing other good players in action in the friendly match against Sweden on Wednesday, as no matter what happens we look forward to playing and trying to win. 

“It is crucial that we can field our absolutely strongest national team in the decisive Nations League matches against Iceland and Belgium.”

Meanwhile it is understood that Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Runarsson will not join those in the Iceland squad who travel to Denmark. The UK government’s guidelines could also affect his international team-mate Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton) as well as Swedish players including Victor Lindelof (Manchester United) and Emil Krafth (Newcastle United).

Clubs are allowed to withdraw their players from international squads over coronavirus concerns, FIFA confirmed at the start of the pandemic.

Denmark is culling its entire mink population, said to be around 15 million, after finding evidence that the coronavirus had mutated in the animals and been passed to humans.

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