Health minister Gillian Keegan has apologized for continuing with an in-person meeting despite being told a lateral flow COVID test had come back positive.
Posting a thread on Twitter, Ms Keegan said she took a precautionary lateral flow test ahead of a planned visit and was told she had recorded a positive result while she was “listening to three fathers who had tragically lost their daughters to suicide”.
Ms Keegan said she told the individuals she had tested positive and “took further precautions” but continued the in-person meeting with their consent “for a short period to hear their stories”.
I should have immediately ended the meeting and on reflection this was an error of judgment on my part. I fully recognize the importance of following the letter and spirit of the policies, so want to be upfront about what happened and to apologize for the mistake I made. 3/3
— Gillian Keegan (@GillianKeegan) February 8, 2022
The health minister added: “I should have immediately ended the meeting and on reflection this was an error of judgment on my part.
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“I fully recognize the importance of following the letter and spirit of the policies, so want to be upfront about what happened and to apologize for the mistake I made.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has accepted Ms Keegan’s apology and “continues to support her in her role”.
A spokesperson for Mr Javid said: “The secretary of state has spoken with the minister who has taken responsibility for her actions and made a full apology.
“He accepts her apology and continues to support her in her role.”
The government’s own coronavirus rules say an individual must isolate “straight away” if they record a positive lateral flow result.
the NHS guidance for using a rapid lateral flow tests states: “Set a timer and wait 30 minutes before you read your result.
“A positive result can appear at any time after 20 minutes, however you should wait for the full 30 minutes to record a negative result as the test line (T) may take this long to appear.”
It is unclear what “further precautions” Ms Keegan took upon receiving the positive result and how long before the meeting the test was taken.
Health minister Ed Argar told Sky News Ms Keegan had issued a “fulsome apology”.
“I saw her set out the circumstances of what has happened, she has issued a very clear and fulsome apology,” he said.
“She has come out publicly and done that of her own volition to acknowledge that she made an error of judgment – and she was also clear that it is important that people follow the rules.
“I don’t know any more than that about it. I understand that she has apologized to the secretary of state as well and I think she has done the right thing by apologizing to the public.
“But, as I say, I don’t know any more details than that.”
Asked whether Ms Keegan should know better given her position, Mr Argar added: “I don’t know the detailed circumstances. I have seen what Gillian has said, she has fulsomely apologized. She has set out the circumstances, I have seen what you have seen.”
Pressed on Ms Keegan’s revelation, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden said: “Well, I think if you test positive you should probably go home.”
A spokesperson for COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said Ms Keegan’s actions were “completely morally irresponsible.”
Lobby Akinnola said: “As the families of the over 175,000 people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 know all too well, Ms Keegan’s actions could have led to someone’s death.
“It’s deeply disturbing that this came from one of the country’s health ministers. Once again we are seeing those in government setting a poor example for the rest of the country to follow.”
Ms Keegan posted on social media that she is “now isolating at home” and feels “fine”.
As of last month, people with COVID-19 in England can end their self-isolation after five full daysas long as they test negative on day five and day six.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.