Houses of Parliament could close 'for months' under government plans to halt spread of coronavirus
The Houses of Parliament could shut their doors under government plans to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, it has emerged.
Downing Street confirmed that it was in talks with parliamentary authorities about a plan of action if the outbtreak continues to get worse.
According to The Times, the Palace of Westminster could close for the Easter recess and not re-open again until after the summer.
One source told the paper: "We’ve got 650 people who spend half the week spread across the country meeting their constituents and the other half rubbing up against one another in Westminster. It’s 650 superspreaders."
On Tuesday, one MP had demanded conference calls and electronic voting be introduced so she and her colleagues did not have to travel to Westminster.
At Prime Minister's Questions, Carol Monaghan, the SNP MP for Glasgow South West, said: "Every week 650 of us come here from every part of the UK, spend several days operating in close proximity and meeting people from all over the world, and we then return to our constituencies, potentially becoming the very vectors that we are trying to shut down.
"Parliament must stay open, but what plans does the Prime Minister have to utilise systems such as conference calls and electronic voting to ensure that we do not become part of the problem?"
In response, Boris Johnson said the chief medical officer, chief scientific adviser and Health Secretary Matt Hancock would be setting out the Government's plans for dealing with "large gatherings", such as in Parliament, in the next 48 hours.
"We are still at the containment stage," he said. "When we come to the delay phase she'll be hearing a lot more detail about what we propose to do about large gatherings and places such as Parliament."
Fears have also been expressed for elderly peers, most of whom are in the age group worst-affected by the virus.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "Discussions are already taking place with parliamentary authorities and scientific and medical advisers.
"I'm sure Parliament will be led by the advice of the experts in terms of taking the steps it needs in order to protect the people who work there."
The news came as the Department of Health confirmed that the number of confirmed coronavirus sufferers in the UK has soared from 51 to 85.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also announced that sick pay rules were being relaxed so that employees forced to take time off work because of the virus would receive their money from day one.