Government minister self-isolates after appearing unwell at despatch box

Alok Sharma, business secretary, appears in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Alok Sharma, business secretary, appears in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Business secretary Alok Sharma has been tested for coronavirus and is returning home to self-isolate after he visibly struggled at the despatch box in the House of Commons.

He was travelling home to self-isolate during the second reading of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill.

The development came a day after MPs approved the government's plan to end virtual voting.

Earlier social media users commented on the fact he appeared unwell while in the 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.

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Labour shadow minister Toby Perkins had raised concerns over the appearance 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,' Perkins tweeted.

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'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.'

Sharma's 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,' she said.

'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.

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.'

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

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