United Kingdom

Coronavirus UK: 'Ill' Business Secretary Alok Sharma tested

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has been placed in isolation having felt ill earlier today in the House of Commons chamber. 

He has been tested for Covid-19, a spokesperson confirmed. 

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.' 

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

Mr Sharma, pictured his afternoon, voted yesterday to scrap the hybrid parliament which allowed MPs to vote from home

A spokesperson said Mr Sharma has now gone into isolation in accordance with government guidelines and has been tested for Covid-19

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

During the debate, he 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. 

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. 

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.

'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.'

Fellow MPs were socially distancing as Mr Sharma struggled to give his statement 

Yesterday, Mr Sharma was pictured arriving in Downing Street for a Cabinet Meeting , however 24 hours later he looked quite ill according to several MPs 

Mr Sharma went into isolation as PM Boris Johnson took questions during this evening's Downing Street press conference

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.

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.

Chaotic scenes unfolded in the Commons 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. 

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

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

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.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the Government was moving into 'another phase' of the coronavirus response and the changes were an 'update to existing structures'.

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.'

'In the past, we had ministerial groups, they are now being replaced by this new structure,' he said.

'We are moving into the recovery phase and the implementation of our recovery roadmap.'

The Prime Minister will continue to have a daily update meeting with senior officials on the latest data.

Mr Sharma went into isolation as PM Boris Johnson, who spent several days in intensive care after being struck down by Covid-19, told a Downing Street press conference that he was proud of the Government's response to the pandemic.   

Mr Johnson acknowledged the scale of the challenge he faces: 'I am afraid tragically there will be many, many job losses. That is just inevitable.' 

Mr Johnson's appearance at the daily press briefing came after a fractious Prime Minister's Questions session where he was accused of presiding over a Government that had lost the 'trust and confidence' of the British people.

He clashed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer about his approach to easing the lockdown and reopening England's schools.

The Prime Minister defended NHS England's test and trace system - one of the key measures introduced to help the return to something approaching normality - but promised to increase the speed with which people get the results of coronavirus tests.

The Prime Minister defended his handling of the crisis, telling MPs: 'I take full responsibility for everything this Government has been doing in tackling coronavirus and I'm very proud of our record.'

Sir Keir said there had been a 'loss of trust' in Mr Johnson's administration and claimed the Prime Minister had refused an offer to work together on building a consensus on the reopening of England's schools.

The Prime Minister said Sir Keir had not offered 'any dissent' during a private phone call about the Government's approach and questioned the purpose of his 'endless attacks' on the official response to the crisis.

In response to claims that the test and trace system was weeks away from being fully operational, Mr Johnson said it was working - but stopped short of giving figures to back up his claim.

He said 'thousands' of contacts of people who had tested positive for coronavirus had been traced.

In response to pressure from former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson set a target of test results being turned around in 24 hours by the end of the month, apart from postal ones and a small number of other exceptions.

The speed of getting results is critical to the operation of the test and trace system, which relies on identifying people who have been in contact with a positive case and getting them to self-isolate.

Baroness Dido Harding, who is heading up the NHS Test and Trace programme, told MPs not enough people were coming forward to book a test.

England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the programme was 'in the early stages of its development'. 

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