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Civil servants’ union warns there are ‘serious doubts’ over Downing Street’s Covid safety rules

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves on the steps of 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The country’s biggest civil servants’ union said there were “serious doubts” about No 10’s coronavirus safety measures after it emerged Boris Johnson and 10 MPs were forced to self-isolate after a meeting.

Johnson and six other MPs were forced to quarantine on Monday after being told they had come into contact with an infected Tory backbencher.

Nottinghamshire MP Lee Anderson developed Covid-19 symptoms a day after meeting the prime minister on Thursday to discuss the cohort of Tory MPs elected in 2019.

Photos have since emerged of that meeting showing Johnson and Anderson standing within a metre of each other, prompting concerns about the safety of Covid measures employed inside No 10.

Johnson is one of 16 other people linked to Downing Street who have fallen victim to the virus –  including the health secretary, Matt Hancock, England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, and the former head of the civil service Sir Mark Sedwill.

The prime minister has since tested negative for the virus but had fallen seriously ill with it in April and was hospitalised for several days and given oxygen.

The prime minister’s spokesman insisted Downing Street fully followed Covid-secure workplace guidelines, and that masks were not usually worn inside the building because of a one-way system in place.

He said the fact the MPs were photographed so close to the prime minister was mitigated by the fact they were stood side by side, not face to face.

But a Public and Commercial Services Union spokesman said the incident was worrisome, citing the case of the business minister, Alok Sharma, who faced questions about distancing in his office after a staff member tested positive for Covid.

“From the controversy around Alok Sharma to parliament not having proper QR codes in place, our members have serious doubts as to the competency levels of ministers when it comes to following Covid safety measures,” he said.

The FDA, which represents senior civil servants, said the case connected to No 10 was a “cause for concern”.

A spokeswoman said: “The risk assessments should include the measures the employer will take if there is a Covid outbreak in the workplace and in particular, employers need to be prepared to look again at the measures they have put in place if they have an outbreak – and if necessary make changes so that similar outbreaks don’t occur in the future.”

Downing Street has defended its procedures, saying it takes its Covid safety procedures seriously.

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