Great Britain

UK climate minister ‘dodged quarantine’ as he travelled to 30 nations – including 6 on red list – in past 7 months

BRITAIN’S climate tsar Alok Sharma faced fury last night over claims that he dodged quarantine after flying to red list countries on government business.

The Cabinet Office minister, 53, has flown to at least 30 countries in the last seven months in his role as President of the COP26 climate summit, to be held in Scotland this autumn.

Mr Sharma has visited at least six countries on the travel red list, but has been given a ministerial exemption from hotel quarantine each time, the Daily Mail claimed.

He has also been able to avoid having to isolate at home after trips to countries on the amber list – while other travellers face fines of up to £10,000 for breaking travel quarantine rules.

Mr Sharma has dodged quarantine under an exemption for “Crown servants”.

But Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Sarah Olney said: “As usual with this Government, it’s one rule for them and another for everybody else.

"People are sick of the Government giving themselves get-out-of-jail free passes while the rest of us stick to the rules."

Under the health protection regulations, diplomats, foreign dignitaries and attendees at major summits that arrive in the UK from red list countries are spared hotel quarantine.

People are sick of the Government giving themselves get-out-of-jail free passes while the rest of us stick to the rules.

Sarah Olney

Since June, Mr Sharma has been to countries in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East, and just this week has been in his fifth and sixth red-list countries – Bolivia and Brazil.

It is believed travel to and from all the countries on Mr Sharma’s list is around 200k miles.

A COP26 spokesman yesterday declined to say how many flights Mr Sharma had taken in total, according to the Mail.

But a government spokesman has defended Mr Sharma, saying in person meetings are "key".

"Helping the world tackle the climate emergency is an international priority for the Government," a No10 spokesman said.

"Virtual meetings play a large part, however face to face meetings are key to success in the climate negotiations the UK is leading as hosts of COP26 and are crucial to understanding first-hand the opportunities and challenges other countries are facing in the fight against climate change."

According to the government spokesman, Covid-19 tests are taken "frequently" and social distancing, wearing of facemasks and regular sanitising "are always strictly followed".

Not all of his 30 known journeys were return flights from the UK as, on occasion, he has visited a cluster of countries on one trip.  

But within days of returning from Bangladesh - on the red list - a maskless Mr Sharma met with Prince Charles indoors before visiting a school.

The minister is now in South America, where he has visited red-list areas Brazil and Bolivia.

U-TURN DRAMA

It comes after Boris Johnson was forced into a humiliating U-turn last month after trying to use VIP testing to dodge ten days at home after contact with the then Covid-hit Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor initially said they wouldn't be isolating because they would be participating in a 'VIP' daily contact testing pilot.

But in a major U-turn after a public outcry, Boris suddenly said he would stay at Chequers and isolate - just like every Brit who has been "pinged" by the NHS app.

In a video from isolation, the PM said: "Like so many hundreds of thousands of other people across the country, I've been pinged.

"We did look briefly at the idea of us taking part in the pilot scheme which allows people to test daily.

"But I think it is far more important that everybody sticks to the same rules. That's why I'm going to be self-isolating until July 26.

"I know how frustrating it all is. I urge everybody to stick with the programme and take the appropriate course of action when you're asked to do so."

The ministers were slammed by the public after claiming that a testing pilot - which conveniently included Downing Street - meant they didn't have to isolate.

Boris Johnson releases statement on his self-isolation following Sajid Javid Covid result

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