Alok Sharma tests negative for coronavirus amid row over physical return to Commons

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Mr Sharma, Conservative MP for Reading West, could be seen using a tissue to wipe his brow multiple times whilst speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, At one point, Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband passed Mr Sharma a glass of water.

Mr Sharma announced his negative test result in a tweet yesterday.

He wrote: “Huge thanks to everyone for their really kind messages over the last 24 hours and my grateful thanks also to the parliamentary authorities and Speaker for their support yesterday. Just had my results in and my test for Covid-19 was negative.”

Labour’s Ed Miliband responded by saying: “Glad to hear this. Hope you are feeling better.”

The fact that Mr Sharma appeared unwell in Parliament raised some concerns regarding who he had been in contact with in the days prior.

The Business Secretary had had a 45-minute meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak the day before, though Number 10 said that the meeting had been “socially distanced”, the BBC reports.

Despite Mr Sharma’s negative test result, Daisy Cooper, Lib Dem MP for St Albans, warned that it was a “wake up call” for MPs and criticised plans to physically return to parliament

She wrote on Twitter: “Good news for Alok Sharma who has tested negative for Covid-19. This should still be a wake up call for Rees-Mogg.

“Govt should lead by example: support ppl2 [sic] work from home where they can (as per its own guidance), embrace digital & stop needlessly risking health of MPs & staff.”

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg had proposed that the virtual parliament system should be scrapped.

Mr Rees-Mogg’s proposal led to a huge line of MPs snaking through the halls and courtyards of Westminster this week, and was passed by 261 votes to 163.
But the decision to return to parliament has been criticised by many MPs because of the Covid-19 infection risk it poses.

As well as the fact that it will mean that more MPs will be physically present around each other, the return to parliament will also see ministers travelling between Westminster and their constituencies – further increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

The virtual parliamentary proceedings had seen MPs vote online and contribute via video call.

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The decision to return to parliament has also faced criticism from those who are shielding and those from black and minority (BAME) ethnic backgrounds, the Guardian reports.

It follows a report by Public Heath England that people from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of dying from Covid-19 than people from white ethnic groups.

Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz said: “We are twice as likely to die”, and added “please stop peddling the myth that we only work when we are here”, the Guardian adds.

And Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Jonathan Reynolds ridiculed the long line of MPs to vote on the motion to return to parliament, tweeting a photo of himself in the queue with the caption: “Genius level stuff this.”

But Rees-Mogg has defended his position, claiming that physical presence in the Commons and at voting procures is better for democracy.

He said is a Commons session: “voting whole enjoying a sunny walk or whilst watching television does democracy an injustice.

“We ask members to vote in person for a reason: because it is the heart of what Parliament is about.”

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