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Alok Sharma STILL waiting for coronavirus test result that could force Boris Johnson to quarantine

Business Secretary Alok Sharma was said to be 'doing fine' today as he awaits the result of a coronavirus test that risks forcing Boris Johnson and other senior ministers into a 14-day quarantine.

The Cabinet ministers is well enough to work from home despite visibly struggling in the House of Commons yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed tonight. 

It came as furious MPs demanded Parliament sit 'virtually' again today after Mr Sharma 'sniffled, sweated and snorted' through a statement - before self-isolating for coronavirus.

In extraordinary scenes in the chamber last night, he ignored the government's own guidance as he struggled on despite repeatedly wiping his brow and blowing his nose. 

The episode sparked concerns that dozens of politicians have been at risk of infection and will now have to go into quarantine - potentially including Cabinet ministers and top officials. Mr Sharma physically attended a 45-minute meeting with the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday.

It also heaped pressure on Boris Johnson to reverse the controversial decision to scrap electronic voting and Zoom debates, after 'farcical' scenes this week that saw hundreds of MPs 'conga' through Westminster in a mile-long socially distanced queue to take part in divisions. 

Addressing the nation tonight Mr Shapps said: 'I have spoken to Alok within the last hour, he is doing fine. 

'Actually, he is working today, but working from home as usual. He is awaiting his test result.'

Labour MPs warned that it was now clear the move back to a regular Commons could be 'potentially deadly'. 

However, ministers suggested Mr Sharma might have merely been suffering from a 'bout of hay fever'. And Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg was defiant in the Commons this afternoon, insisting it was right that MPs should come to the chamber and 'do our democratic duty'.

'How can we look teachers in our constituencies in eye when we're asking them to go back to work and we are not willing to.'   

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg (right) was defiant in the Commons this afternoon, insisting it was right that MPs should come to the chamber and 'do our democratic duty

Fury as Labour MP boasts of flouting social distancing at protest

A Labour MP is facing fury after boasting about flouting lockdown rules to attend a Black Lives Matter protest.

Barry Gardiner posted a video of himself in the middle of the crowd outside Westminster, openly stating that he had 'broken' social distancing guidelines. 

Challenged over the action on Twitter, he said he had recently tested negative for coronavirus.  

Tory MP Imran Ahman Khan said Mr Gardiner had 'fragrantly flouted the law' and were 'boasting that they have broken social distancing measures'.

Mr Khan called on any MPs involved to be 'prevented from rejoining this House until they have undergone a period of self-isolation' for the safety of all those working inside the parliamentary estate.

Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing said MPs who took part 'have put themselves at risk' and 'should act responsibly'.

It came after thousands of people joined a protest in London on Wednesday over the death of African-American George Floyd in US police custody nine days ago. 

A spokesman for Mr Sharma confirmed that he has been tested for covid-19, after developing the symptoms.  

According to a statement from his department: 'Secretary of State 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.' 

Mr Sharma regularly attends the daily Covid meeting in Downing Street, and was in No10 on Tuesday. 

The PM's spokesman said: 'He does not yet have his test results. 

'Should the Secretary of State receive a positive test then he will work with the test and trace service to share information about his recent interactions. 

'He did attend a meeting in No 10, which took place before Cabinet. 

'That was a discussion on the economy and in terms of who was present, it was the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Business Secretary.' 

The spokesman stressed the meeting took place with two-metre distancing in place and pointed towards the Government guidelines on how the tracers operate, which include asking individuals whether they had been to a workplace recently. 

The spokesman confirmed that even those who have had Covid-19 must isolate and, when pressed on whether the PM would self-isolate if told to, he said: 'I would expect us to take medical advice and to follow it.' 

As a way of slowing the virus's spread, contact tracers with the NHS service are asking infected individuals who they have come into recent contact with. 

Tracers will then decide whether it is necessary to tell those contacts to self-isolate for 14 days from their last contact with the individual, as a precaution. 

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said it was possible Mr Sharma just had a bout of 'severe hayfever'.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Lewis said: 'I don't want to be premature because Alok, who I wish well and hope he recovers quickly, may well have had severe hayfever, we're not sure yet.

'He has had a test, he is self-isolating as you say, to take the correct precaution.'

Mr Lewis denied that Mr Sharma's case supported the argument for virtual voting in the Commons to be resumed.

He said: 'It is important for parliamentarians to be able to properly scrutinise legislation, not just for Covid but for the wider legislative agenda we have to continue with for people across the country, but to do so within proper guidelines.

'That's what the House authorities have set up, that's what's been working over the last few days and that's a very good thing.

'It highlights Alok's situation, if he has got coronavirus, why it is so important that if you are in a work environment, you have got to follow the guidelines.' 

Parliamentary colleagues rushed to wish Mr Sharma a speedy recovery.

But many seized on the development at evidence virtual sittings should be brought back, amid risks that MPs could become super-spreaders for the disease.

After Mr Sharma's statement the government's despatch box needed to be 'deep cleaned', causing a delay to proceedings.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma was visibly struggling at the despatch box today, touching his face and adjusting his glasses shortly before he went into isolation with suspected Covid-19 

During the debate, Mr Sharma was seen wiping his face with a handkerchief several times and his opposite number in Labour's shadow cabinet, Ed Miliband, passed him a glass of water at one point. 

Labour MP Barry Sheerman wished Mr Sharma well today, but demanded to know: 'How many other MPs will have been infected?'

He added: 'Now obvious what a possibly deadly decision it was for Boris Johnson to demand that MPs flock back to Parliament.' 

The SNP's Philippa Whitford said: 'Hope Alok Sharma recovers quickly but he should have stopped immediately. 

'HoC claim despatch box etc ''deep cleaned'' but can't clean every door handle he touched since Monday when he became infectious! 

'Cabinet meeting was on Tuesday so will THEY isolate?' 

Labour MP Toby Perkins took to Twitter to share his concern that Mr Sharma had attended the chamber while ill, tweeting: 'This is ridiculous. It was clear that Alok Sharma looked unwell.

'If there are now fears that he may have covid-19 and he hadn't already tested negative, it was the height of irresponsibility for him to be in parliament sniffling, sweating and snorting from the despatch box.'

Digital voting in the Commons was ended on Tuesday when MPs approved a Government motion introduced by Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg despite widespread objections. 

Mr Sharma was in Downing Street for the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (pictured)

Labour MP Toby Perkins called Alok Sharma's decision to attend chambers while feeling ill 'the height of irresponsibility'

Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper wrote: 'This should be a MASSIVE wake-up call for Jacob Rees Mogg'

Labour MP John McDonnell tweeted: 'This confirms that lives of both staff & MPs are being put at risk in parliament'

Labour's Lisa Nandy described the Government's decision to stop MPs working from home was 'reckless' as social distancing is impossible in the House of Commons

Labour party MP Dawn Butler wrote: 'Watching this makes me feel like i'm watching a horror movie. That's my place of work, i'm going in there tomorrow. It is scary'

Labour Party MP Peter Kyle tweeted: 'I hope Jacob Rees-Mogg makes a full and swift apology' 

Yesterday, Mr Sharma voted against the continuation of the hybrid parliament which allowed MPs to vote remotely, especially if they needed to remain in isolation or were shielding. 

Senior Conservatives, opposition groups and the equalities watchdog raised concerns that the move would prevent many MPs, particularly the elderly and vulnerable ones who are shielding, from being able to vote. 

Labour's Lisa Nandy also took to Twitter shortly after Mr Sharma fell ill to share her frustration, tweeting: 'This is just awful. The government has stopped MPs from working from home and asked us to return to a building where social distancing is impossible. MPs are travelling home to every part of the country tonight. Reckless doesn't even begin to describe it.'

While Labour MP Peter Kyle tweeted: 'Attempting to drag the MPs most susceptible to a bad COVID outcome into the same space as people dripping with the disease is going to be a standout legacy of Rees-Mogg's time as Leader of the Commons.'

Mr Miliband, who could potentially be contacted by NHS contact tracers and asked to self-isolate if Mr Sharma was to test positive for Covid-19, sent his 'best wishes' to the Business Secretary for a quick recovery, adding: 'Hope he feels better soon.' 

Proceedings in the House of Commons were temporarily suspended after it emerged Mr Sharma was heading for isolation so the despatch box, where ministers issue statements received a thorough deep clean. 

Mr Sharma grabbed a glass of water while Labour's Ed Miliband, pictured left, responded to his statement 

The despatch box was being wiped down between exchanges, but the scheduled pause after the Bill's reading went on for longer than expected and journalists were unusually asked to leave the press gallery.

The size of the chamber has made it difficult for some MPs to keep their distance as they try to swap seats or move around.

Earlier in the day, Boris Johnson ended PMQs by heading towards the chamber exit but stopping for a chat with a Conservative colleague, thereby walking over hazard tape on the floor designed to encourage MPs to keep two metres apart.

The SNP said virtual proceedings must return without delay after Alok Sharma's suspected case of Covid-19.

The SNP's deputy leader in Westminster Kirsty Blackman MP said the suspected case demonstrates 'just how ridiculous and irresponsible the Tory Government's decision to end virtual participation in Parliament was'. 

'They must now rectify this serious mistake and reintroduce hybrid proceedings without delay,' the MP added.

'In light of this development it's difficult to see how else Parliament can proceed - but what is clear is that this botched system isn't working and needs to change urgently to protect our democracy.

'Millions of people across Scotland and the UK have been disenfranchised by the Tory decision, which has blocked many MPs from participating and voting.'

Labour shadow minister Toby Perkins had raised concerns over the Reading West MP's appearance in the Commons earlier in the day.

'This is not ok. If he has symptoms that could be Covid-19, it's not up to him to soldier on, he is jeopardising the health of everyone who he comes across and everyone else who touches that despatch box and every door handle he touches etc,' Mr Perkins tweeted.

The government were criticised by MPs from all sides over their decision to scrap the hybrid parliament and forcing members to vote in person - while attempting to social distance. Labour's Ben Bradshaw tweeted this photograph of chaotic scenes at the bottom of Portcullis House. Mr Sharma voted against continuing with arrangements to vote from home

House of Commons launches urged 'deep clean' after Alok Sharma goes into isolation  

The House of Commons authorities said 'additional cleaning' had taken place after Alok Sharma's suspected case of Covid-19.

A Commons spokeswoman said: 'The House's priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated.

'We have closely followed guidance from PHE on action to take following a suspected case of Covid on site, including additional cleaning.

'Our risk assessment outlines the measures we have already put in place to reduce the risk of transmission in Parliament.'

'Maybe he's had a test and knows it's not that, but if so he should confirm that to people watching, otherwise the message again goes out that what the government says and means about what to do if you have symptoms are two different things.'

Chaotic scenes unfolded in the Commons yesterday when MPs formed a long queue snaking through Parliament so they could maintain social distancing while voting on the motion. 

Mr Sharma had due to be attending a new C-19 strategy committee along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock. The committee will be chaired by the PM. 

Meanwhile, a second committee - the C-19 operations committee - will be led by Mr Gove, with Mr Sunak and Mr Hancock also attending.

Other Cabinet ministers will attend the committee meetings 'according to the agenda', and they will meet 'as often as is required', Number 10 said. 

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