Alok Sharma met Prince Charles at Clarence House three days after a staff member in the business secretary’s private office tested positive for Covid-19, he emerged.
The Guardian revealed this week that the employee in Sharma’s inner circle received the positive result last Monday, after a union health and safety inspection report identified concerns about social distancing in his office.
Sharma had a meeting involving the individual on the Thursday before the test result, and the couple were at the department’s office in Whitehall the next day. Sharma then flew to South Korea on Saturday, where he continued to meet with foreign dignitaries after being told of the positive test, while other colleagues were forced into self-isolation.
The Guardian has now learned that once back in the UK, Sharma met Charles last Thursday. An entry on the October 29 court circular states: “The Prince of Wales received the Rt. Hon. Rishi Sunak MP (Chancellor of the Exchequer). His Royal Highness then received the Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). “
A spokesperson for Sharma pointed out that Clarence House was made aware of the confirmed Covid test in Sharma’s office ahead of the meeting, and it was agreed that this should go ahead as he was showing no symptoms. and had not been asked to self-isolate. They said Sharma had had no “close contact” with the staff member who tested positive.
The ministry declined to say how long Sharma’s meeting with the employee who tested positive lasted or how many employees were forced to self-isolate.
In addition, it was confirmed Thursday that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, had entered into solitary confinement. The Foreign Office said Raab had been informed that a person he had been in close contact with recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
“In accordance with government regulations and NHS Track and Trace rules, the Foreign Secretary took immediate steps to self-isolate for the required period. He will continue to work remotely during this time, ”a spokesperson said.
The government says a person who catches coronavirus can be infectious for up to two days before being symptomatic, up to 10 days after, and can transmit the infection even if they have no symptoms. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says: “The time between exposure to Covid-19 and when symptoms start is, on average, 5 to 6 days and can range from 1 to 14 days. “
If an individual is informed by the test and the NHS trace that they are a ‘contact’ of a person who has caught Covid-19, the law must self-isolate for 14 days from their last point of contact with the person .
Charles contracted coronavirus in March, and later said he “got away with it quite slightly” after experiencing only mild symptoms. It emerged this week that Prince William had tested positive for Covid in April, which had not been made public at the time.
There have been documented cases around the world of individuals who have contracted the disease twice, including in the United States where researchers reported the country’s first confirmed coronavirus reinfection last month.
Unions representing civil servants wrote to Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Permanent Secretary Sarah Munby last month to express “extreme concern” over confirmed cases. There appear to have been two more recent cases of Covid among BEIS staff.
A Public and Commercial Services (PCS) health and safety inspection of the BEIS office carried out on Thursday, October 22 – the same day of Sharma’s meeting, including the person who tested positive for Covid – noted : [secretary of state], were very crowded and by far the busiest part of the building … We think there are too many people (8 staff members when we inspected) regularly in the private SoS office to allow social distancing and thus protect the health and safety of all personnel. ”
A spokesperson for the business secretary, who previously pointed out that Sharma tested negative before and after her trip to South Korea, said: “The business secretary had no close contact with the staff member who has not tested positive at any time. At no point was Mr Sharma asked to self-isolate either through NHS testing and tracing or through the NHS Covid-19 app as he and the staff member were not at any point. moment in close contact.
“Clarence House was briefed on the situation prior to the meeting and it was agreed that this could progress as planned as Mr. Sharma was not showing symptoms and had not been asked to self-isolate. Mr. Sharma followed all government guidelines at all times.