NIR BITTON has tested positive for coronavirus, Celtic have confirmed tonight.
The midfielder picked up the virus while on international duty with Israel before Thursday night’s Euro play-off semi-final against Scotland at Hampden.
Bitton will miss the first Glasgow derby of the season when Steven Gerrard brings his Ibrox side to Parkhead a week today.
He is the THIRD Celt to be involved in coronavirus controversy and has joined Odsonne Edouard who also tested positive while on duty with the France Under-21 squad in Paris on Tuesday.
Ryan Christie is also out next Saturday’s encounter after being ordered to self-isolate for 14 days after coming in contact with Stuart Armstrong who picked up the virus while on international duty.
Bitton played against the Scots after surprisingly overcoming an ankle injury which saw him limp off against Sarajevo in Bosnia in last week’s Europa League tie which the Hoops won 1-0.
He missed the 2-0 Premiership win over St Johnstone on Sunday and Neil Lennon ruled him out of the forthcoming international outings.
However, he played the full two hours of the game at the national stadium and even scored a penalty-kick in the shoot-out which Steve Clarke’s men won 5-3 after a goalless stalemate.
A statement from the champions read: “Celtic Football Club can confirm that Nir Bitton has returned a positive COVID-19 test yesterday while on international duty.
“We send our sincere best wishes to Nir and any other players or staff affected within the Israel squad. We are in constant dialogue with Nir and look forward to him returning safely to the Celtic squad as soon as possible.
“Clearly, recent events during this international period are very concerning and frustrating. We have worked tirelessly to ensure a safe and secure working environment and since testing has begun our players and medical staff have done a brilliant job in very difficult circumstances.
“Although we will never be complacent, throughout our own Club testing programme, our squad has returned around 2,000 individual negative tests since the outbreak of the pandemic, with not one positive test.
“The current situation has presented huge challenges for all within football and wider society which we do not underestimate in any way.
“While we apportion no blame whatsoever to anyone, this is now a very difficult position for us and, clearly, for all other clubs. Like all other clubs, we must do all we can to protect our squad and limit the very clear and obvious risks to players.
“Under FIFA regulations, clubs are obliged to release players for international duty.
“We will be maintaining close contact with international associations in order to ensure everything possible is being done with regards to the care and protection of our players. The priority must be the safety of our players at all times.
“For clarification, all members of the Celtic squad who continue to train at Lennoxtown during this period have again ALL returned negative tests yesterday.”