Covid chaos as Commons staff told work from home due to ‘greater risk of transmission’

Patrick Vallance warns nation must be ready for COVID Plan B

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MP’s staff have been told to work from home where possible and social distancing measures will be enforced at meetings of select committees. MPs themselves have also been urged to wear masks, according to the BBC, but cannot be forced as they are not employed by Commons authorities.

These new measures have been introduced in response to a warning from the UK Health Security Agency about the increasing risk of Covid.

A Parliamentary spokesperson said: “The House’s priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated.

“There have been recent increases in Covid across the country and these are also being reflected in Parliament.

“The UK Health Security Agency has determined that the risk of transmission on the Parliamentary estate is now greater.

“As a consequence, some further action is being taken to ensure that case numbers do not continue to rise.”

A number of the new measures being imposed in Parliament, including work from home rules and compulsory mask-wearing, mirror aspects of the Government’s Covid ‘Plan B’.

This is likely to increase speculation about further restrictions being introduced across the whole of England in the coming weeks.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has been vague about what exactly would trigger the Government to introduce these measures.

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Ministers were told by scientific advisors in SAGE late last month to begin preparing for the “rapid deployment” of winter Covid restrictions.

They were warned that “there remains potential for a rapid increase in hospital admissions if behaviours [among members of the public] change quickly”.

Under its ‘Plan B’, the Government would also introduce vaccine passports for all “large venues”, barring those who haven’t been jabbed from many hospitality venues, and the further communication of additional risk to the public.

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The Government has, however, also been warned of the great cost of switching to stricter restrictions, not only to the nation’s mental and physical health – already suffering after months of strict measures – but to the economy.

Government documents obtained by POLITICO last week suggested that up five months of ‘Plan B’ restrictions could cause up to £18billion in damage to the UK economy.

In an email seen by the Independent, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle today defended new measures for Parliamentary staff as “the only way we can keep this awful virus at bay, while also keeping our core business going”.

He added: “We are all having to be flexible in these extraordinary times, and I know you will do everything you can to keep us functioning, albeit from a distance.”

He insisted that this is just “one more hurdle we have to overcome”.

The new measures will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.

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