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Dominic Raab has sought to defend images of the G7 summit attendees at a barbecue on the beach with no social distancing.
The foreign secretary was asked about the event after photos emerged, showing more than 30 guests at the event in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, where only the staff were wearing face masks.
World leaders like Joe Biden, Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron can be seen in socialising at close quarters in the pictures, which were shared on Twitter by ITV’s political editor Robert Peston.
It comes as current England coronavirus rules restrict social gatherings to 30 people or less.
Asked about the barbecue by Sky News’ Trevor Phillips, Raab said: “It’s outside, it’s very well ventilated on the beach.”
The foreign secretary tried to claim “there was social distancing” which was quickly dismissed by his interviewer.
Raab also said the government had “gone well above and beyond” to make sure the event was COVID secure.
He said: “Both in terms of the checks that have been done - the daily checks for COVID, the precautions, the slimlined delegations - we’ve taken every measure possible to make sure this is not just COVID secure but that it could take place.
When asked about pictures of G7 leaders mixing at close quarters at a barbecue on the beach, Dominic Raab says "it's outside" and "it's very well-ventilated" and insists "there was social distancing"
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— Trevor Phillips on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) June 13, 2021
“I think that we’ve gone well beyond and above in making sure this was COVID secure.”
Phillips went on to press the foreign secretary on how the pictures send a signal that Brits could have more than 30 people at a wedding outside and not wear masks.
Watch: G7 leaders gather for photo call in Cornwall
The host said: “It’s out there and people will be reasonably saying that you’re not allowing me to gather with my friends and family at a wedding and a funeral but look at what you guys are doing.”
Raab replied: “In fairness, there have always been different principles for social entertainment or weddings than for government business."
“Those rules have been the same all along,” he added.
Raab later said: “I think your viewers will understand the serious business of bringing leaders together to bring back the economy stronger, greener, deal with the pandemic, shift the point at which the whole world is vaccinated from 2024 to the middle of next year.
“That’s a serious business they’re engaged with amidst all the leisure activities on the beach.”
It comes as Boris Johnson suggested that easing the remaining lockdown restrictions on June 21 could be delayed due to the spread of the Indian variant, recently renamed the Delta variant by the World Health Organization.
Reports emerged on Sunday morning that the prime minister is expected to agree to put the final easing of controls on hold for up to four weeks when he meets senior ministers and officials on his return from the G7 summit.
The move will be a big blow for many businesses that hoped for a full summer reopening.
Watch: Sir David Attenborough to tell G7 leaders they face biggest climate decisions in history