Great Britain

Business secretary tested for Covid-19 after feeling ill during Commons speech

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, has been tested for coronavirus after feeling unwell while delivering a statement in the House of Commons.

The cabinet minister has gone home to self-isolate following his appearance at the dispatch box earlier on Wednesday.

The parliamentary authorities are understood to have given the area a deep clean and MPs were at the time sitting at least 2 metres apart. “This was done as a precaution,” a House of Commons source said.

However, his suspected illness is likely to cause concern about the government’s decision to bring back parliament in its physical form, after weeks of allowing MPs to attend remotely via video link.

Many MPs have protested against the new arrangements, which have seen them queuing around the parliamentary estate while complying with the 2-metre physical distancing rules in order to vote.

Observers noticed that Sharma appeared unwell and to be sweating profusely while he spoke about the corporate insolvency and governance bill in the Commons.

A spokeswoman for the business secretary said: “Alok Sharma began feeling unwell when in the chamber delivering the second reading of the corporate governance and insolvency bill. In line with guidance he has been tested for coronavirus and is returning home to self isolate.”

A string of cabinet ministers and senior officials have come down with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, including Boris Johnson, who was hospitalised in intensive care with a severe case.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser, Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, Dominic Cummings, the senior No 10 adviser, and Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, were also all unwell with coronavirus in late March or early April.

The first MP to fall ill with the virus was Nadine Dorries, a health minister, who tested positive on 11 March.

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