A report claims Tony Blair asked for special dispensation but did not get the exemption required to avoid the isolation period.
Tony Blair has denied claims that he breached COVID-19 restrictions by failing to self-isolate for a fortnight after a two-day trip to the US on a private jet.
According to The Sunday Telegraph, the former prime minister was pictured leaving a restaurant in London’s Mayfair 10 days after returning from Washington last month.
The paper claims Tony Blair appealed to Whitehall officials for special dispensation from the COVID-19 rules, but was not issued with the formal exemption letter he would have needed to avoid the 14-day isolation period.
A spokesman for the former prime minister told the paper he was invited by the US government because of the role he played in the agreement between Israel and the UAE, describing the ceremony as a “diplomatic conference”.
He was advised to follow rules on attending international conferences, having travelled to the US for a ceremony at the White House at which Israel signed agreements establishing formal relations with Bahrain and the UAE, his spokesman said.
Mr Blair posed no risk to anyone as he was tested before his departure, on arrival at the White House, and again several times since returning to the UK, his spokesman added.
“We believe he followed all UK and US government guidelines as advised,” his spokesman said. “He was not refused exemption by the UK government.
He has been accused of ignoring the quarantine rules after a special dispensation from the rules was not awarded to him, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
The ‘international conferences’ exemption to the rules applies to diplomats, staff at international bodies such as the UN and formal representatives at international conferences who have been ‘granted privileges and immunities’.
But Mr Blair is considered a private citizen since he left his role as Middle East envoy in 2015.
Do as I say, not as I do!
Returning to the UK on September 16, Mr Blair reportedly travelled by private jet on the £7,000-an-hour Falcon 7X.
He is believed to have had with him a team of Scotland Yard protection officers – paid for by the British taxpayer.
Ten days after his return, on September 26, he was pictured leaving ‘one of the most elegant and sophisticated private members’ clubs in London’.
In July, the former prime minister said infrastructure to stop the spread of the virus was critical as another national lockdown would not be possible, suggesting that people instead need to learn to live safely with the virus.
Mr Blair described the crisis as ‘the biggest challenge logistically and practically’ a government has ever faced, but criticised ministers for not yet putting in place an ‘infrastructure of containment’.
He said: ‘The reality is that we’re going to be living with Covid-19 – we’re not really going to be able to eliminate it.
‘And when you look at what has been happening in other countries, as lockdown has been eased, then more and more problems have appeared and many countries, having gone into lockdown then easing it, are finding spikes in the disease.
‘You can’t be sure of this but there’s at least a 50/50 chance that you have a resurgence of the disease in the autumn and that’s why it is absolutely essential now to prepare for that.
‘And to put in place every single last bit of containment infrastructure that you possibly can to make sure that if that happens you are able to control the disease, because you’re not going to be able to go back into the lockdown that we endured in March, April and May.’
In August, he claimed ministers had got the Government’s travel quarantine policy ‘wrong’.
He took aim at the Government’s 14 day quarantine rules for people returning to the UK from countries where coronavirus is on the rise as he said the self-isolation period could be cut ‘substantially’.
He called for ministers to take a more ‘sensible’ approach to calculating risk amid rising speculation that Croatia and Greece could soon join Spain and France on the UK’s ‘red list’.
Meanwhile, Mr Blair also suggested ministers had been over reliant on officials during the crisis and that they needed to recognise ‘where the science ends and judgements begin’.