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Tony Blair denies breaching coronavirus quarantine restrictions following US trip



Tony Blair has denied accusations that he breached Covid-19 quarantine restrictions by failing to self-isolate for a fortnight after returning from a trip to the US. 

The former prime minister was seen leaving a restaurant in Mayfair, west London, 10 days after return from a 2-day trip taken by private jet to Washington DC last month, the Sunday Telegraph has reported. 

The newspaper also claims that Mr Blair had asked Whitehall officials for a special dispensation from the COVID-19 rules, but was not granted a formal exemption letter that would have meant he didn’t have to quarantine.  

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Whitehouse ceremony

In response, a spokesperson for Mr Blair released a statement saying that he had been invited to the US because of his role in facilitating diplomatic accords that were signed by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in recognition of Israel in September.

He attended a ceremony at the White House which was described as a “diplomatic conference”and said that they believed the US and UK guidelines were followed. 

“He [Blair] was told to follow the guidance on international conferences, which he did; the US government had cleared the visit because it was for the diplomatic conference at the White House,” the spokesperson said. 

“Mr Blair was tested for COVID before departing the UK, on arrival at the White House, when he returned to the UK and has been tested several times since. All tests have been negative.”  

Tony Blair attended the signing of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognised Israel, on the South Lawn of the White House (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP).

‘Appalling example’

However, David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West and a member of the public administration committee select committee, said it was hard to see how Mr Blair could claim to have been tested on return “when we haven’t got a testing regime”. 

Mr Jones told The Sunday Telegraph: “It sets an appalling example to ­travellers if a former prime minister appears to flout the rules in such a ­flagrant manner.”

The newspaper also added that Mr Blair had posed for photos with several US political figures on the White House lawn on 14 September carrying his facemask in his hand.  

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “FCDO provides travel exemptions to diplomats travelling on business relating to the interests of the UK, representatives of international organisations and their families and dependents. Those issued with an exemption do not need to self-isolate.”