Parliament Steps Up Covid Testing After People Turn Up To Work With Symptoms

·3-min read
The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Bridge. (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)
The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Bridge. (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)

Parliament will introduce its own surge testing next week after pass holders turned up to work with covid symptoms, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Parliament’s test and trace team will provide a PCR service on the estate on Monday and Tuesday next week, when MPs return from a short recess.

An email, seen by HuffPost UK, said: “This kind of testing is common in workplaces experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak.

“These tests are not mandatory, but are strongly encouraged. More testing will mean a safer working environment for everyone.”

Sources stressed that although they were stepping up testing, it was not the same surge testing used by the NHS at the height of the pandemic.

It comes after this website revealed last week that events, tours and banquets in the Houses of Parliament were being shut down because of a Covid outbreak.

It was also revealed that there had been 114 covid cases detected on the parliamentary estate in a month.

The House of Commons authorities are meeting next week to discuss current covid security measures and whether they “should be extended”.

The email said that since last week’s alerts went out the “vast majority” of pass holders have acted with “great responsibility”.

It went on: “However, there has been a small number of cases, including this week, involving individuals who continued to attend the estate despite displaying Covid-related symptoms.

“Please can we therefore remind you that you must not in any circumstances come on to the estate if you are feeling unwell with Covid-related symptoms and have not yet taken and received a negative result from a PCR test.”

The email to staff and MPs said the authorities in both the House of Lords and Commons were keeping the outbreak “under close review”.

“The House of Commons Commission will now be meeting on Monday 15 November to discuss the current enhanced measures and to determine whether they should be extended,” the email added.

They also warned that further events might have to be cancelled at “short notice” after their meeting on Monday.

Parliamentary pass holders are also being asked to take lateral flow tests “twice a week” – with an emphasis on taking one before they return to the estate after the short recess.

A separate document, also seen by HuffPost UK, outlines “trigger points” the authorities are using to dictate when certain measures are introduced.

It says if 11 or more Covid-19 cases are identified on the estate or there is a continuation of an estate-based outbreak beyond 21 days: “Management of outbreak will be taken forward in partnership with Westminster City Council and UKHSA. Surge testing introduced to the estate, requirement for all to use face coverings, restrictions to non-essential activities on the estate.”

Jawad Raza, from the FDA union for senior civil servants, said: “The rising number of cases on the parliamentary estate remains worrying as more parliamentary staff, MPs’ staff and MPs themselves test positive.

“The FDA has consistently warned that poor observation of the voluntary rules for MPs would continue this unwanted spike.

“The commission really has to look at whether additional stronger measures are now required to tackle the rise in cases, including whether a formal return to hybrid proceedings is required.”

He said it would help if MPs “particularly on the government benches” acted with “more care and less arrogance”.

A parliament spokesperson said: “We continue to take the necessary steps to protect all of those in parliament, including offering onsite testing services. All measures taken are in line with national guidance and advice from the UKHSA to ensure that the parliamentary estate remains Covid-safe.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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