British MP suspended for attending Parliament while infected with Covid
October 2, 2020 12:33 PM
British lawmaker Margaret Ferrier has been stripped of the Scottish National Party whip after attending parliament with Covid-19 symptoms and then travelling back to Scotland by train following a positive test result, Independent reported on Friday.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon branded the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP’s actions “utterly indefensible” and the party’s MP in neighbouring Glasgow East said she should resign her seat.
Ms Ferrier issued an apology, saying she had “no excuse” for her behaviour. She is referring herself to parliament’s standards watchdog and has informed police and House of Commons authorities.
As Labour accused her of “astonishing recklessness” which had put others’ health at risk, it emerged that one person is self-isolating after coming into close contact with her during her visit to parliament.
Ms Ferrier was among those who called for Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings to be sacked after he ignored what she said were “crystal clear” self-isolation instructions to travel to Durham with coronavirus symptoms.
In a statement, she said that she experienced “mild” symptoms of coronavirus last Saturday, but decided to travel to London by train on Monday after she began feeling better.
After attending parliament as planned that day, she received a positive coronavirus test result in the evening. Despite official guidance to self-isolate, she travelled home by train on the Tuesday.
At 7.17pm on Monday evening, she spoke in the chamber of the House of Commons, paying tribute to “the NHS, key workers and volunteers in my constituency for their care and commitment over the last seven months”.
A picture posted on the official Police Scotland Twitter feed for East Kilbride, Rutherglen and Cambuslang indicated that she met officers at a local station on Tuesday - after her diagnosis with Covid. It is understood that she informed SNP colleagues and Commons authorities on Wednesday.
“I apologise unreservedly for breaching Covid-19 restrictions by travelling this week when I shouldn’t have,” Ms Ferrier said. “Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result, and I deeply regret my actions,” she said.
“I take full responsibility and I would urge everyone not to make the same mistakes that I have and do all they can to help limit the spread of Covid-19.”
After speaking with the MP this evening, the SNP’s leader at Westminster Ian Blackford announced he had withdrawn the whip.
And Ms Sturgeon said: "This is utterly indefensible. It’s hard to express just how angry I feel on behalf of people across the country making hard sacrifices every day to help beat Covid.
“The rules apply to everyone and they’re in place to keep people safe. Ian Blackford is right to suspend the whip.”
Glasgow East MP David Linden told BBC: “I don’t think her position is tenable and she should resign.”
Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “This is astonishing recklessness from an SNP MP, which has put people’s health at risk.
“Through her irresponsible actions, she very possibly has passed on the virus to a vulnerable person, who may now have COVID-19 and be in danger. She has put passengers, rail staff, fellow MPs, Commons staff and many others at unacceptable risk.
“To breach the rules twice is simply unforgivable, and has undermined all the sacrifices made by her constituents. There cannot be one rule for Margaret Ferrier, another for everybody else.”
Following the Downing Street adviser’s notorious lockdown breaching trip to Durham, Ms Ferrier said in May: “Dominic Cummings’ actions have undermined the sacrifices that we have all been making in lockdown to protect each other from coronavirus. His position is untenable and he must be removed from his post now."
She added then: “The public health advice is crystal clear. For the safety of others, anyone with coronavirus symptoms must self-isolate, in line with government guidance. They should not leave the house for any reason.”
Official NHS guidance states that individuals should self-isolate immediately if they have any symptoms of coronavirus or have received a positive test result.
Self-isolators are told not to leave their home even to get food or medicine, not to go to work or any public place, not to use public transport, not to receive visitors apart from people providing essential care and not to exercise outside their homes or garden.
The Commons authorities said they had “closely followed public health guidance on the action to take following a confirmed case of Covid on the site” and were implementing “a number of cleaning measures to ensure those working on the estate can maintain a clean and hygienic working environment”.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was said to be “keeping the situation under constant review”.