Fears of parliament superspreader as MPs urge return of virtual Commons – 45 test positive

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The worries come after at least 45 police officers, said to be part of the Metropolitan Police’s Parliamentary unit, tested positive for coronavirus. Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has warned MPs could “easily become superspreaders” as they travel to Parliament from all around the country.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said it would ultimately be up to the House whether there should be a return to virtual Parliament.

Sir Hoyle added: “I would say let’s look at it straight away and let’s start to move to a new place.”

Some MPs are backing the idea, while others, such as Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, think MPs should continue to meet physically, The Telegraph reports.

A virtual parliament system was put in place for a couple of months over the spring and summer in an effort to prevent COVID-19 spreading through Government.

MPs voted to return to parliament in June with 261 votes to 163 against.

The arrangement was praised by some and criticised by others – notably Jacob Rees-Mogg.

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In an op-ed for PoliticsHome, Mr Rees-Mogg noted the virtual model had “made history” and allowed MPs to continue to work from home.

However, he called for a return to parliament in May, noting: “Politics is better done face-to-face, even if the whites of the ministerial eyes are six feet away.

“In the chamber frontbenchers will have to keep on their toes as interventions are once again made possible.”

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Others said a return to Parliament was too risky at the time.

Labour’s Valeria Vaz, shadow leader of the House, called Mr Rees-Mogg’s proposals to return to Parliament in June “discriminatory” as some people may be more at risk from COVID-19 than others.

She added: “The abolition of the hybrid remote parliament which allowed all MPs to take part regardless of their personal circumstances is discriminatory and would not be acceptable in any other workplace.”

Coronavirus infections have hit senior levels of the UK government already this year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the virus at the end of March this year, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock also tested positive.

The recent outbreak between Parliamentary police staff has meant the unit’s base has had to have a deep clean, according to The Sun.

While MPs consider whether or not to reintroduce the virtual parliament system, a number of extra safety measures have been put in place.

The measures include Perspex screens placed in the Commons, it is understood.

Sir Hoyle added there had been “a small number of cases on the Parliamentary estate”.

He added: “The Commission is trying to keep the House functioning in the safest way possible, within the remit of its responsibilities and following guidance from Public Health England.”

According to the government’s most recent figures, 19,724 people tested positive for coronavirus in the UK yesterday, bringing the UK total to 654,644.

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