COVID-19: MPs banquets cancelled due to greater risk of coronavirus transmission in parliament

Banquets, tours and all other non-parliamentary business have been cancelled for the next two weeks after health officials found there was a “greater” risk of COVID transmission in the Palace of Westminster.

In an email to those working on the parliamentary estate, seen by Sky News, staff have been given updated guidance on face masks, social distancing and access for non-pass holders in a bid to prevent coronavirus infections from rising.

“Recent increases in COVID-19 across the country are also being reflected in parliament,” the email stated.

“The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has determined that the risk of transmission on the parliamentary estate is now greater.

“As a consequence, the parliamentary authorities have decided to take further action to ensure that case numbers do not continue to rise.

“These measures will be reviewed in two weeks, with the hope they will have had an impact.”

Among the immediate changes detailed in the email is updated guidance on face masks, with staff told that face coverings should be worn by all parliamentary and MPs’ staff, contractors and others while on the parliamentary estate unless they are exempt.

Masks should only be removed when staff are seated at their desks, during meetings if required to speak or when eating or drinking, the email added.

Subscribe to the All Out Politics podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

Parliamentary workers were also told to maintain social distancing “as far as possible”, as the UKHSA warned that “the risk of transmission in committee meetings appears to be greater”.

Staff have also been advised that “all events on the estate that do not relate to parliamentary business will be cancelled for the next two weeks, including banqueting events (Member-sponsored and third party), tours and other meetings”.

Meanwhile, MPs have been urged to “minimise the number of non-passholders they bring on to the estate” and told “there should be a business need for any visitors”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently led members of his cabinet in wearing masks in the House of Commons as top Conservatives returned to donning face coverings in parliament.

It comes after last week’s order from Commons’ authorities for staff, contractors and visitors to wear face coverings while on the parliamentary estate due to rising COVID cases.

But they said they could not compel MPs to do the same as they are not deemed to be parliament employees.

Following the order issued to parliamentary staff on face masks, many MPs who had previously not worn masks in the Commons chamber returned to doing so.

A parliamentary spokesperson said: “The House’s priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated.

“There have been recent increases in COVID-19 across the country and these are also being reflected in parliament.

“The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has determined that the risk of transmission on the parliamentary estate is now greater.

“As a consequence, some further action is being taken to ensure that case numbers do not continue to rise. The measures will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.”

Source: Read Full Article