Business secretary tested for Covid-19 after appearing ill

Alok Sharma has been tested for coronavirus and is returning home to self-isolate.

Business secretary tested for Covid-19 after appearing ill Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
Self-Isolating: Alok Sharma.

Business secretary Alok Sharma has been tested for coronavirus after becoming visibly unwell in the House of Commons chamber.

He was travelling home to self-isolate after he struggled during a speech at the despatch box during the second reading of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill on Wednesday.

The suspected case of Covid-19 in the chamber came a day after MPs approved the Government’s plan to end virtual voting in the Commons, prompting renewed calls for the system to return.

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.

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His spokeswoman said: “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.”

The House of Commons authorities said “additional cleaning” had taken place following  the news. 

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

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“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.”

Labour shadow minister Toby Perkins had raised concerns over Sharma’s appearance in the Commons earlier in the day, and later doubled-down on his criticism after learning of the test.

“This is ridiculous. It was clear that Alok Sharma looked unwell,” he said.

“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.”

The SNP insisted virtual proceedings must return without delay following the announcement of Sharma’s suspected case of Covid-19.

The party’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”.

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“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.”

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