Gillian Keegan said she should have ‘immediately’ ended the meeting, and described not doing so as a ‘mistake’ and ‘an error of judgment’.
09 February 2022
A health minister has apologised for continuing with a face-to-face meeting despite being told she had tested positive for Covid-19.
Gillian Keegan said she was told her test was positive while meeting three men who had lost their daughters to suicide.
She said she should have “immediately” ended the meeting, and described not doing so as a “mistake” and “an error of judgment”.
The Chichester MP said she had told the men the result of the test but stayed on to hear their stories while taking “further precautions”.
Posting on Twitter on Tuesday night, Ms Keegan said: “Earlier today, ahead of a planned visit I took a precutionary (sic) LFD test which gave a positive result. I am now isolating at home and fortunately feel fine.
“When I was told my test was positive I was listening to three fathers who had tragically lost their daughters to suicide.
“I told them the result and took further precautions but with their consent, I stayed 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 recognise the importance of following the letter and spirit of the policies, so want to be upfront about what happened and to apologise for the mistake I made.”
The NHS website encourages people to do rapid lateral flow tests on days they are more likely to catch or spread the virus – for example when mixing with people in crowded indoor places.
In the event of a positive test result, the NHS website says: “You must self-isolate immediately.”
Ms Keegan was meeting Mike Palmer from Greater Manchester, Andy Airey from Cumbria, and Tim Owen from Norfolk.
The trio, known as 3 Dads Walking, have raised more than £800,000 for the suicide prevention charity Papyrus.
Mr Palmer, who lost his 17-year-old daughter Beth to suicide in March 2020, told the PA news agency that Ms Keegan had “acted accordingly”, adding: “I think she acted very responsibly.”
He said Ms Keegan put a mask on, put further distance between herself and the men, and “made arrangements to leave as fast as possible”, adding: “We have no grievance or problem with the way she acted whatsoever.”
Mr Palmer added: “She doesn’t need to apologise to us in any way, shape or form. Absolutely not.”
He said the men, who are calling for more suicide education – awareness and prevention – on the curriculum, were “very pleased” with how the meeting went and they look forward to meeting Ms Keegan again in future.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has accepted Ms Keegan’s apology and “continues to support her in her role”.
A spokesman 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.”
Fellow health minister Ed Argar told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme on Wednesday morning: “I saw that Twitter thread, I think, late last night, I think it was.
“She’s clearly issued a fulsome apology there, that she did make an error of judgment, she was open about that and she accepted she made an error of judgment.
“I understand – I haven’t spoken to or seen Gillian yesterday or today, so I don’t know first-hand – but I understand from her Twitter thread that she set out the circumstances and apologised, and I understand that she has also spoken to and apologised to the Secretary of State, who has accepted that apology.”
Lobby Akinnola, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “This is completely morally irresponsible behaviour.
“As the families of the over 175,000 people who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 know all too well, 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.”
In the past, Ms Keegan has talked about British people doing the “right thing” when it comes to coronavirus.
Asked in November about how new rules around wearing face coverings on public transport would be enforced, Ms Keegan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, largely due to the good sense of British people who will hopefully listen to the rules, try to protect each other, and do what the right thing is.
“That’s largely what… how it’s always been. That’s pretty much what it’s always been, but the police do have powers to enforce.”