Covid spike at Parliament – but MPs still not forced to wear masks

Covid surge at Parliament forces ban on public tours and functions and MPs are urged to socially distance in Westminster – but they still won’t have to wear masks

  • Health Security Agency says Covid transmission risk in Parliament increased 
  • Non-parliamentary business activity like tourist tours and banqueting cancelled
  • Face coverings are already compulsory for staff, contractors and journalists 
  • MPs have been encouraged to wear masks and urged to do social distancing 

MPs have been urged to socially distance within parliament and tours and functions have been banned after a surge in Covid cases.  

The UK Health Security Agency has determined the risk of transmission of Covid-19 on the parliamentary estate in London has increased.

New measures include the cancellation of non-parliamentary business activity such as tourist tours and banqueting activity at the Palace of Westminster.

Face coverings are already compulsory for staff, contractors and journalists and chairs of meetings will be urged to take a stronger role in ensuring compliance with the rules.

MPs have been encouraged to wear masks on the estate and new guidance has also urged social distancing, particularly in committees, where health officials believe the risk of transmission is greater. 

But MPs are still allowed to go mask free as the are outside the rules – and many continue to shun face coverings in the Commons chamber.

Downing Street indicated the Prime Minister would wear a mask in Parliament, as he did last week during the Budget.  

Asked whether other ministers would be ordered to wear masks, a No 10 spokesman said: ‘We believe it’s a matter for individuals to make that decision.’

Downing Street indicated the Prime Minister would wear a mask in Parliament, as he did last week during the Budget (pictured)

The UK Health Security Agency has determined the risk of transmission of Covid-19 on the parliamentary estate in London has increased.

A parliamentary spokesman 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.’

Last week, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg defended not wearing a face mask by arguing regular testing shows he is not ‘spewing Covid’ in the chamber.

He has previously claimed that Tory MPs’ ‘convivial, fraternal spirit’ meant they did not need to mask up because the advice to wear a covering only applied in crowded spaces with people you do not normally mix with.

Most MPs on the Opposition benches wear masks, but many Conservatives still refuse to don a face covering in the chamber.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was forced to miss Prime Minister’s Questions and the Budget debate after testing positive for Covid-19 last week.

His self-isolation period continues and deputy leader Angela Rayner will stand in for him at Wednesday’s session with Boris Johnson.

Despite the concerns of the spread of the virus on the parliamentary estate, the City of Westminster as a whole has the second-lowest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK.

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