House Speaker: Avoid Parliament, watch on TV

House Speaker: Avoid Parliament, watch on TV
Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie. (FILE PHOTO)
  • Both Houses of Parliament taking precautionary COVID-19 measures

  • Anyone exhibiting “extreme” symptoms will be prevented from entering

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — House of Assembly Speaker Halson Moultrie last night encouraged visitors of the House of Assembly and Senate to avoid the Upper and Lower Chambers and instead follow the proceedings via the parliamentary channel, amid increase precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

“If possible, persons should stay at home and utilize the parliamentary channel broadcast ZNS live streaming and their Facebook page,” he told Eyewitness News.

“And so, we put those in as preliminary measures and tomorrow (Wednesday) based on the agenda of the government, we will make a determination as to how we should proceed moving forward.

Moultrie said he expects a crowd to attend House proceedings today, despite the cautioning.

When asked if Parliament is likely to suspend public access, the speaker said: “At this stage, we will be instructing the police officers to be extremely diligent and observant, and persons who may be exhibiting visible signs of symptoms like coughing, sneezing and you can actually see they could be having difficulty — we are going to prevent those persons from entering Parliament for certain. But it has to be something on the extreme.”

The speaker said the entire Parliament will be sanitized this morning, including the Majority and Minority Rooms; offices, staircase, Smoker Rooms, and public galleria.

He pointed out the public galleria is a close seating area within close proximity to the floor of the House where parliamentarians sit.

The protocols request that anyone who is feeling sick or has respiratory symptoms withdraw from the precincts of Parliament or Parliament Square; anyone entering Parliament must wash their hands and avoid shaking hands with anyone; “strangers” (visitors and tourists) are not to approach or attempt to engage MPs of senators; cell phones must be sanitized and not shared with other people; people avoid embracing or speaking in someone’s face; and the public should avoid the gallery and keep at least three feet apart from others.

“We are taking those precautionary measures to try and safeguard the public as well as the members, and senators and staff members,” said Moultrie, who advised the Parliament has established a COVID-19 protocol.

“We want people to avoid the gallery where possible because we have really cramped quarters,” Moultrie noted.

Parliament will make available hand sanitizers and provide Lysol spray in lavatories.

In the United Kingdom, the House of Parliament have imposed a limited shutdown, closing its doors to visitors and tourists as the government seeks to prevent the spread of the virus.

Only passholders and people on “essential Parliamentary business” have been allowed entry.

Parliamentarians over the age of 70 or those with underlying health issues have also been urged to heed government’s advice and consider staying at home.

Members of the public will still be able to watch debates in both chambers from the public galleries as well as debates in Westminster Hall.