Tony Blair
Tony BlairReuters

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair breached COVID-19 restrictions by failing to self-isolate after a two-day trip to the US on a private jet, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reports.

In pictures obtained by the newspaper, Blair is seen leaving a restaurant in Mayfair 10 days after his return from Washington DC last month, where he attended the ceremony at the White House at which Israel signed agreements establishing formal relations with Bahrain and the UAE.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Blair appealed to Whitehall officials for special dispensation from the COVID-19 rules, but that he was not issued with the formal exemption letter he would have needed to avoid the 14-day isolation period.

Blair he was advised to follow rules on attending “international conferences”, but, the newspaper noted, 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”.

Blair is considered a private citizen, having stepped down from his post-Prime Ministerial role as Middle East envoy in 2015.

A spokesman for the former Prime Minister said he was invited to the ceremony 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”.

The spokesman also insisted 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.

“We believe he followed all UK and US ­government guidelines as advised,” added the spokesman.

“He was not refused exemption by the UK Government. He 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,” said the spokesman.

“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,” he added.

Several days after the White House ceremony, it was reported that several White House Staff members had tested positive for coronavirus.

President Donald Trump later responded to the reports and said that only one White House staff member had tested positive for the virus and that it was “not a person I was associated with”.