All Members of Parliament will need to have a COVID-19 negative certificate to enter the premises in the monsoon session that begins on September 14. A set of detailed guidelines have been issued by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariat with the recommendations of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Health Ministry.
This test needs to be done 72 hours before the session commences. Those MPs who have been unable to undertake the test will need to do so on the day they arrive at the Parliament’s reception. And they can enter only if their rapid antigen test comes out negative. Even when an MP’s staff or family member tests positive, the guidelines says that the MP will need to self-quarantine for 14 days.
These guidelines have been issued after consultations held between the two presiding officers, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. They individually also met senior officials from the Home Ministry, the Health Ministry and the ICMR.
The members will have to wear masks at all times, even while participating in a debate. “MPs would be encouraged to avoid going out of the Parliament during the course of a day’s proceedings unless necessary to avoid contracting infection externally,” the guidelines says.
No hard copies
Hard copies of Parliamentary papers such as list of business, copies of bills, ordinances and other documents also have been discontinued. The copies of these documents will be sent electronically. MPs have been requested to avoid calling any visitors to the Parliament unless absolutely necessary. In the pre-pandemic times, the MPs used to arrange huge groups from their constituency to visit and the school children also were routinely brought around for a tour of the Parliament.
The Parliament canteen would offer only packed meals, tea and coffee during the course of the session. This, too, would be given in disposable containers.