Parliament Won’t Shut Down Despite MP Coronavirus Diagnosis

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The British government has confirmed that it will not be shutting down parliament “at present” despite one of its MPs having contracted coronavirus and another going into self-isolation as a precautionary measure.

MP for Mid-Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries is the first MP confirmed to have caught the China-origin COVID-19. Mrs Dorries, who is also a health minister, reported first feeling unwell on Friday with her diagnosis confirmed on Monday. The junior minister is reported to have met with “hundreds” of people, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Thursday and attended an International Woman’s Day event at Number 10, Downing Street.

As a precaution, Labour MP Rachael Maskell has been “advised” to self-isolate after meeting with Mrs Dorries on Thursday. She said in comments reported by The Telegraph:  “I trust the Prime Minister has also contacted NHS 111. There’s nothing special about him.

“He’s another person and like any of us we could spread this virus. He must take that public health advice in the same way that I have taken the public health advice.”

Despite the case, a parliamentary spokeswoman said there were no plans to physically close parliament to prevent further transmission. MPs maintain close contact with the public, meeting with constituents at surgeries on Fridays, increasing the risk of public infection.

“At present there are no plans to suspend parliament,” the spokeswoman said according to Reuters.

“We are closely following guidance from Public Health England in response to the situation and have been reassured that the measures we are taking are proportionate and appropriate,” she added.

The House of Commons is set to be packed today as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will deliver his budget.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has criticised Mr Johnson for his handling of the outbreak, which he said has been “utterly insufficient”, criticising the UK continuing to allow “dozens of airplanes from areas of Italy which have been affected by the disease to land on British soil”.

While two British Isles airlines — British Airways and Dublin-based Ryanair — have ceased flights to and from Italy, media reported that dozens of flights had arrived at British airports in recent weeks where arrivals had not been tested for the virus or quarantined, the government instead insisting that airline staff were monitoring the passengers during flights.

By contrast, Israel has brought in a two-week quarantine period for all arrivals from abroad into the country.

The Bank of England’s governor Mark Carney announced on Wednesday that he would be enacting an emergency cut in interest rates — reduced from 0.75 per cent to 0.25 per cent — to bolster the economy in face of challenges caused by coronavirus. Mr Carney told a press conference: “These measures will help keep firms in business and people in jobs.”


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