At least 32 MPs, 262 officials in Parliament test COVID-19 positive; govt mulls curtailing session

At least 32 lawmakers and 262 officials working in parliament have tested positive for coronavirus since the monsoon session started on Monday this week, reports said.

A Hindustan Times report on Friday said 32 MPs, including two ministers - Prahlad Patel and Nitin Gadkari - tested positive for the virus this week. But what is also worrying is the high number of officials working in the parliament who have tested positive.

Hindustan Times' national political editor Sunetra Choudhury reported that out of 262 officials working in parliament who have tested positive, 137 of them are in Lok Sabha.

"It’s not just MPs testing positive. 262 officials working in parliament have also tested positive- 137 of them posted to work in Lok Sabha. Amidst this the work to pass bills continues," she said.

Meanwhile, the government is also contemplating curtailing the ongoing Monsoon Session because of the rising COVID-19 cases amongst MPs.

The Lok Sabha floor leaders of different parties are likely to meet later in the day to deliberate on the issue, the sources said.

However, before taking any final decision, the government wants to take all parties on board and also get 11 ordinances passed as laws by Parliament, they said.

The Lok Sabha has so far passed three Bills to replace agriculture sector related ordinances. Also, both the Houses have cleared an ordinance into law to cut by 30% the salaries of members of Parliament to ramp up funds in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 may also come up for passage in the Upper House. Congress and some other Opposition parties are opposing the bill.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus within the parliament complex, reporters and parliamentary staff entering the premises now have to undergo the rapid antigen test mandatory on a daily basis, according to a new protocol put in place.

Members of both Houses are undergoing RT-PCR test on regular intervals voluntarily, said a senior Parliament official.

A member of Parliament can undergo RT-PCR test as many times he or she likes.

Journalists covering the Monsoon session from the press galleries of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha also have the option to undergo the RT-PCR test which is valid for 72 hours.

Since the report of the much reliable RT-PCR takes time, antigen test has been made mandatory on a daily basis.

Government officials accompanying their respective ministers during bill discussions also have to show a negative report of RT-PCR test taken within the last 72 hours of their visit to the complex.

The session began on September 14 and is slated to end on October 1. Both the House are meeting in shifts of four hours each without a customary Saturday-Sunday weekend break.

The Budget Session was short-terminated in March after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

(With PTI inputs)

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