UK rejects call to shut parliament over coronavirus case
March 12, 2020 01:33 AM
The British government on Wednesday rejected calls for parliament to be suspended after an MP was infected with coronavirus.
Former minister Rory Stewart, a former Conservative MP now running to be mayor of London, said the lower House of Commons “should cease to meet in person” to avoid any further spread.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that “we will keep parliament open” so the government could be held to account.
“Our democracy is the foundation of our way of life,” he told parliament, while adding that “in some ways this house may have to function differently”.
The government will hold another COBRA emergency planning meeting on Thursday, Hancock revealed.
The comments came after Nadine Dorries, a Conservative MP and junior health minister, revealed late Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Dorries attended an event hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week but a Downing Street source said they had not been in close contact.
The source said the premier was displaying no symptoms and there was no need for a test, although he continues to follow health advice to regularly wash his hands.
However, an opposition Labour MP, Rachael Maskell, revealed she had been advised by the state-funded health service helpline to isolate herself after meeting with Dorries last week, even though she had no symptoms.
“MPs are at high risk through very frequent contacts and large gatherings,” tweeted Stewart, a former aid minister who ran against Johnson for leadership of their ruling Conservative party last year.
“They are in danger of infecting each other in the chamber, and then going on to infect others. Time for Action Now.”
The commissions that run both the Commons and the unelected upper House of Lords met on Monday to discuss their response to the coronavirus outbreak.
They said in a joint statement there were “no plans to suspend parliament” but added that the situation was being kept under “constant review”.
Eight people have died in Britain due to the outbreak sweeping the globe, out of 456 confirmed cases.