House of Commons maintains its Covid-secure status
15 September 2020
Maintaining social distancing across the parliamentary estate came under the spotlight at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission. The chair of the Parliamentary Covid planning group, reported that while the House had become busier since the return of MPs and some staff to the estate from recess, its status as a Covid-secure workplace continued. Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he had been on patrol in Portcullis House to encourage colleagues to maintain social distancing in the atrium and reminded colleagues of the importance of doing so in the busier communal areas of the estate.
Members discussed whether more MPs could be allowed into the House of Commons Chamber if the upper galleries were opened for their use.
Currently, a maximum of 50 MPs are permitted in the Chamber at any one time to maintain a two metre distance between each other. The Commission gave the green light to investigate the feasibility of installing TV cameras and an audio feed into the galleries, which may also need to be fitted with anti-droplet protection panels. It is hoped that these measures may enable a further 16 Members to participate in Chamber proceedings.
The Commission also heard from Public Health England about future potential testing of MPs and staff, should Covid rates rise.