Parliament is fully prepared for the 18-day Monsoon Session from Monday under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic with many firsts, including sitting of the two Houses in shifts without any off day, entry only to those having a negative COVID-19 report and compulsory wearing of masks.
In run-up to the session, while over 4,000 people including MPs and staff have been tested for COVID-19, most parliamentary operations have been digitalized, entire premises sanitised and doors made touch-free.
The first-of-its-kind Monsoon Session will see Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha sitting in two different shifts, while special seating arrangements have been made for MPs in adherence to social distancing guidelines.
Barring on the first day, Rajya Sabha will convene in morning shift from 9 am till 1 pm, and Lok Sabha in evening shift from 3 pm to 7 pm. The chambers of both houses along with their respective galleries will be used for sitting of the members in each shift.
In between the two shifts, the entire complex will be sanitised. Entry in the premises will be allowed only on production of a COVID-19 negative report, with the test conducted not more than 72 hours before the start of the session.
Frequent sanitisation of the entire parliament complex will also be carried out, while arrangements have been made to sanitise various parliamentary papers as well as footwear and cars of MPs, officials said. Frisking of people will also make way for touch-less security scanning, while thermal scanning will also be totally touch-free.
For making the entire Parliament complex a safe zone in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had held a series of extensive discussions with officials of the Home Ministry, Health Ministry, ICMR and the DRDO.
As per the standard operating procedures finalised for holding the session from September 14 till October 1, the MPs and staff of secretariats of both houses, as also the media personnel covering the proceedings, will be asked to undergo COVID-19 test, not more than 72 hours before the start of the session.
Officials said arrangements were made for tests of close to 4,000 people, including the MPs, staff members and journalists. Only MPs and ministers will be allowed inside the main building, while necessary seating arrangements will be made for the separate sitting of their personal staff in the complex.
A new seating arrangement following social distancing guidelines has been prepared by both houses for their respective members. The MPs will also be allowed to address the Chair while seated and wearing their masks so that the risk of infection might be minimised.
It has also been decided that air of air conditioners will be exchanged six times every day to avoid any possible infection. The DRDO will also provide multi-utility COVID-19 kits to all MPs.
Each kit will contain 40 disposable masks, five N-95 masks, 20 bottles of sanitisers of 50 ml each, face shields, 40 pairs of gloves, a touch-free hook to open and close doors without touching them, herbal sanitation wipes and tea bags to enhance immunity.
The two houses together have more than 780 members at present. The Health Ministry has also suggested that the movement of Members of Parliament in chambers of both the houses can be made unidirectional to avoid face-to-face interactions.
The Ministry will make available short video clips to all MPs on awareness about COVID-19 infections and the benefits of wearing masks, etc. Touchless sanitisers will be kept at 40 different places within the Parliament House complex, and emergency medical teams and ambulances will also be stationed.
All guidelines related to COVID-19 prevention will be strictly followed, the presiding officers of both houses have said. The provision of ultraviolet boxes has also been made to sanitise various parliamentary papers handled by the presiding officers and members.
Arrangements are also being made for sanitisation of footwear and cars used by the members and those provided by the Secretariat by providing mats of required dimensions soaked in Hypochloride gel placed in troughs.
Marshals will also wear masks and face shields.