Coronavirus: Speaker confirms all non-essential public access to House of Commons to be stopped

16 March 2020, 23:56

Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Picture: PA

All non-essential public access to the Houses of Parliament is to be stopped in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also urged MPs and peers over the age of 70, as well as those with underlying health conditions and those who might be pregnant, "to pay particular attention to the advice of Public Health England".

Under new guidance published on Monday, these groups are "strongly advised against" social mixing in the community.

In a statement on Monday, Sir Lindsay said there will be "no access to the public gallery" in both Houses of Parliament from Tuesday in response to the coronavirus pandemic, adding that "all non-essential access" will be stopped.

Earlier on Monday, he stressed to MPs the importance of Parliament continuing despite the outbreak, but said he will be "constantly" reviewing access arrangements.

Measures already taken include the cancellation of commercial tours, MPs, peers and other passholders being discouraged from bringing guests into the parliamentary estate for social visits, and a ban on mass lobbies by campaign groups.

Sir Lindsay earlier told MPs: "All of us recognise the importance of Parliament continuing at such a difficult time - the need to ensure proper scrutiny and that our constituents' concerns are addressed.

"However, to reduce the risk to those who work on the parliamentary estate and those who visit, we have taken some proportionate and reasonable measures to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus."

Sir Lindsay said the situation remains under constant review by parliamentary authorities.

MPs' tours of constituencies will also be stopped, the parliamentary education centre closed and school visits will cease from Tuesday.

He added: "I have taken this decision with the latest government advice and with the Lord Speaker in consultation with Public Health England.

"These further steps are necessary to allow Parliament to continue to fulfil its constitutional duties."

Boris Johnson has said that people should avoid all "unnecessary contact with others" and "avoid pubs, clubs and other venues" to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The UK Prime Minister was giving the first of now-daily updates set to take place during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "If you or anyone in your household shows symptoms you should stay indoors for 14 days, unless for exercise or at a safe distance from others.

"Anyone who lives with someone who has a cough or a temperature should stay at home for two weeks, the PM said.

Mr Johnson said people should ask for help from others for all their daily essentials and all but essential travel should be stopped.

He added that: "Now is the time for everyone to stop unnecessary contact with others and you should avoid pubs, clubs and other types of venues."

It comes as the UK's total deaths from coronavirus surged to 55.

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