With increasingly stringent measures now applying to large parts of the country, and the Government advising on Monday that people should work from home wherever possible, it remains business as usual at Westminster, meaning the nation’s 650 MPs are carrying on as normal as far as possible, although a directive issued earlier by deputy chief whip Stuart Andrew meaning there will be just 17 MPs in the Chamber for PMQs. However, a large number are currently quarantined, according to the Guido Fawkes website, which today published a rolling list of the MPs concerned, including confirmed cases. Included on this are junior health minister and Tory MP for mid-Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries, the first MP diagnosed with COVID-19, and Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow.
Labour MP Lucy Powell for Manchester Central voiced her concern on Twitter, posting: “With central London such a ‘hot bed’ for spreading the virus, we really need to quickly change how we are working in Parliament & Whitehall.
“We should be practising what we are preaching. MPs, sitting cheek by jowl all day, heading back off around the country, isn’t good.”
Calling for “radical steps”, she added: “It’s not just the chamber but MPs travelling to and from London, MPs in vulnerable groups or self-isolating etc.
“We need to ensure those following advice are still able to directly raise issues.”
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, replied: “Parliament must sit throughout this crisis, especially during this crisis, but we can change the way we work with practical steps – like a rota for speakers during questions and debates to help limit numbers in the chamber.
Ms Dorries, 62, whose 84-year-old mother also contracted the bug, subsquently wrote about her experiences, saying: “I will never know how I became infected with Covid-19, only that I am one of the first people in the country to have been identified who has not recently been abroad or been in close contact with someone who had returned from abroad.”
Ms Osborne meanwhile tweeted: “Many people are asking about my coronavirus symptoms.
“My symptoms started with a dry cough but I was also feeling tightness in my chest. Over the next few days my chest became worse with a shortness of breath and a burning sensation in my back.
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“I haven’t developed a temperature which I understand is quite fortunate nor any dizziness.
“The isolation is difficult, I am separated from my family and miss them terribly. There are also many practical difficulties to overcome.”
Daniel Kawczynski, Tory MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, told Express.co.uk as things stood, Parliament was down to a “skeleton crew” of MPs and security.
He added: “I think it is extremely important that the Government is scrutinised in the most effective way possible and therefore members of Parliament should carry on doing the job there in the House of Commons as long as the health authorities tell us that it is sensible to do so.
“As yet we have not had any such request to leave. Clearly it would be highly irresponsible to ignore health advice and carry on being in the House of Commons but until that we must carry on.”
Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, one of the MPs currently self-isolating, today tweeted: “Day 6 and I’ve woken up feeling the best I have for a while! Still a bit of a huffy cough but other than that I now feel ok… hopefully over the worst.
“Thanks for all the kind get well messages. My family and I have appreciated receiving them. And stay safe.”
Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsey Hoyle is tonight expected to say: “Parliament will stop all non-essential access from tomorrow to both Houses.
“All Members who have underlying health conditions, or may be pregnant, or are over 70, should pay particular attention to the advice of Public Health England.
“No access to the public gallery – and side galleries will be restricted for use by Members of both Houses Member tours for constituents will be stopped.
“The Education Centre will be closed and education and school visits will cease from tomorrow.