MPs must prove they're Covid-free before entering chamber: Chuan

MPs must prove they're Covid-free before entering chamber: Chuan

Workers in full protection gear clean and disinfect the press room at Parliament on April 23, 2021, as part of tightened measures against the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Workers in full protection gear clean and disinfect the press room at Parliament on April 23, 2021, as part of tightened measures against the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Members of parliament who have yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19 -- or refuse to -- will be required to show Covid-19 test results to prove they are free of the infection when the new parliament session begins, or else they may be denied entry into the chamber.

Proof that members are free of Covid-19 will be required any time they attend a new parliamentary meeting, in a strict measure to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in parliament, parliament president Chuan Leekpai said on Wednesday.

Parliamentary staff members are now told to strictly implement this Covid-19 screening rule without making exceptions to any particular persons, he said.

Before the new parliamentary session begins on May 22, a meeting of the government, opposition and Senate whips will be held tomorrow to review a preparedness plan for ensuring Covid-19 prevention in parliament and ensuring the new session runs smoothly, he said.

Parliament should set a good example in terms of executing their work responsibilities well in the face of the outbreak crisis, he said.

On May 27 the House of Representatives is due to deliberate two draft executive decrees, while the government has promised to submit the new budget bill for the fiscal year 2022 (starting on Oct 1, 2021) next Monday.

The deliberation of the budget bill is at this point planned to take place from May 31 until June 2, he said.

The government chief whip’s proposal to have the budget bill deliberation deferred to June 9 seems unlikely as the proposed delay would probably affect the government’s fixed budgetary management timeframe and possibly result in a domino effect on the economy, said Mr Chuan.

Anan Phonamnuay, a Palang Pracharath Party MP for Kamphaeng Phet who is chairman of the House committee on House affairs, said he and government chief whip, Wirat Ratanaset, were highly concerned about the safety of tomorrow’s meeting given the current situation of the Covid-19 outbreak in Bangkok.

Mr Anan said he and Mr Wirat are therefore urging that the meeting be postponed for about two weeks in order to wait for more Covid-19 vaccine supplies to arrive.

Aside from the rise in infections during this current wave of Covid-19, the death rate has also risen to as high as 15%, he said.

Mr Chuan’s new Covid-19 screening rule does improve confidence in the health safety in parliament, said Mr Anan, but the rule doesn’t apply to all the other people who may be involved in the upcoming meetings, such as parliamentary staff members, members of the media and invited guests.

“I totally understand that the new parliamentary session is important. But if that comes with health risks that may result in new deaths [from Covid-19], will it still be worth it?” he said.

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