Around 30 MPs and 50 parliament employees test positive for coronavirus

All those who have tested positive have been asked to stay in quarantine and they did not come to Parliament.,width-640,imgsize-653036,,resizemode-3,quality-100/ls-pti-new.jpg

The Lok Sabha started the monsoon session on Monday amid unprecedented safety and social distancing measures due to the pandemic even as more than 30 members – more than 20 Lok Sabha members and rest from the Rajya Sabha – tested Covid-19 positive in the mandatory pre-session test, clearance of which was a must for attendance and participation in the House proceedings.

The BJP had the highest number of Covid positive members (about 12 in the Lok Sabha and two from Rajya Sabha). As per Lok Sabha secretariat officials, two members from the YSR Congress and one each from the Shiv Sena, DMK and RLP too were among those who tested positive. In the Rajya Sabha, two MPs each from the BJP and Congress and one each from the AIADMK, TRS, AAP and Trinamool Congress tested positive.

Some MPs took to social media to share their health status. BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi and Sukanta Majumdar tweeted their positive status. BJP’s Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal tweeted his positive report of the test done in Parliament Complex and said he repeated the test at SMS Hospital Jaipur, where he tested negative. “Which report should be believed?” he asked on Twitter. More MPs are expected to make disclosures.

The tests were conducted on Sunday and Monday. As per the protocol set by the health and family welfare ministry, MPs had to get themselves tested 48 to 72 hours before the session. A negative report was made mandatory for the member to attend Parliament.

Unprecedented arrangements

The coronavirus scare triggered unprecedented safety measures and social distancing norms in the House and around the Parliament Complex. The members were seated in a scattered way – some in the Lok Sabha, some in the Rajya Sabha and the rest in the visitors’ gallery. For the first time, some members of the Lok Sabha were seated in the Rajya Sabha, and vice versa for Rajya Sabha sitting. To enable this, the House passed a motion, suspending the rules that bar members of a House entering the other House. The remaining MPs were seated at the visitors’ gallery on the first floor with special microphones for them to speak from there. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present when the House assembled. The House reassembled after adjourning for an hour after paying tributes to former President Pranab Mukherjee.

Speaker Om Birla sought members’ cooperation for the new drill. "This time the session is being held under an extraordinary situation and we have made arrangements for the safety of members... We have allotted seats to members based on the total strength of their party in the House. I would request members and ministers to follow the seating arrangements which have been made keeping in mind the social distancing requirements,” he said.

Fibreglass screens were fitted in front of every seat of MPs as a reinforced safety measure against infection. The Speaker also specified another norm for this session – the members will remain seated while speaking and nobody will be allowed to stand up and speak or move across the aisle. This, incidentally, also meant severe restrictions on the Opposition’s capacity to put up a united and vociferous protest or to enter the Well. In addition to the safety kits made available, many MPs were seen wearing face screens in addition to masks. While both the Houses will sit for only four hours every day without a holiday till the scheduled end of the session on October 1, restrictions have been imposed on the entry and movement of media persons during the session, and visitors are barred.