Coronavirus: ‘No plans’ to suspend Parliament after MP diagnosed

Nadine DorriesImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Health minister Nadine Dorries and a member of her staff have been diagnosed with coronavirus

There are no plans to suspend Parliament after an MP and her staff member tested positive for coronavirus, the Commons Speaker has said.

Lindsay Hoyle told MPs he was “in constant contact” with health officials and was monitoring the situation.

Health minister Nadine Dorries and a member of her staff have been diagnosed with the virus, while another MP is self-isolating.

Ministers – including the PM – do not need to be tested, the government said.

Mr Hoyle also confirmed that a dedicated coronavirus hotline had been set up for MPs and members for the House of Lords.

It comes after the UK experienced its biggest rise of confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day, increasing by 83 since Tuesday to 456 cases.

Six patients with coronavirus have died in hospitals in the UK.

The UK is currently in the “contain” phase of its four-part plan to deal with coronavirus. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to give a statement to MPs later.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £30bn package to boost the economy and get the country through the outbreak – with £12bn specifically earmarked for coronavirus measures.

The Department of Health said Tory MP Ms Dorries first showed symptoms on Thursday – the same day she attended an event hosted by the prime minister.

She also held a surgery in her constituency on Friday morning which was attended by up to 12 people, according to Steven Dixon, chairman of the Mid Bedfordshire Conservative Association. The Flitwick Club, where the surgery took place, is undergoing a deep clean as a precaution.

Ms Dorries told the BBC that a member of her parliamentary staff also has the virus, adding: “Contact tracers have full list of everyone I have been in contact with.”

‘Worrying time’

The 62-year-old wrote to Tory MPs, via a WhatsApp group on Wednesday, saying it was “hard to remember” every single person she met last week but she urged those who had sat next to her in the “tea room or library etc” to please let her know.

She tweeted on Tuesday to say it had been “pretty rubbish but I hope I’m over the worst of it now”.

The Department of Health said ministers – including the prime minister – would not need to undergo testing as Public Health England has assessed the risk of Ms Dorries’ close contacts and only those with symptoms needed to self-isolate.

But Labour MP Rachael Maskell tweeted she has been told by NHS 111 to self-isolate “as a result of a meeting” she had with Ms Dorries last Thursday.

In an email to MPs, Commons Speaker Mr Hoyle said he wished Ms Dorries a speedy recovery.

“We are being guided by Public Health England in our response to this situation, who we are in constant contact with,” he said.

“We are all aware of the important function of Parliament and the need to keep it functioning as usual.

“There are no plans to suspend Parliament or to close any areas of the buildings at this time.”

He said that any changes “would be a matter for consultation between the Speakers, the government and the Parliamentary authorities”.

The parliamentary community “must all work together to limit the spread of the virus”, he said.

“Of course, this is a worrying time for all of us. But please be reassured that we are working closely with Public Health England and will keep you regularly updated on the coronavirus information page on the intranet.”

The commissions of both Houses are expected to meet later to discuss coronavirus.


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