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Parliament's monsoon session likely to be cut short as ministers, MPs test coronavirus positive

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New Delhi Sep 19: The ongoing monsoon session of Parliament is likely to be curtailed and may end by the middle of next week in view of the threat of the COVID-19 spread among parliamentarians.

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At a meeting of the business advisory committee of Lok Sabha, which has floor leaders of all parties besides the government representatives and is chaired by the Speaker, most political parties favoured curtailment of the session, which started on September 14 and was scheduled to conclude on October 1.

A final decision will be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. However, the government wants to take all parties on board and also get 11 ordinances passed as laws by Parliament, they said.

The Lok Sabha has so far passed three Bills to replace agriculture sector related ordinances. Also, both the Houses have cleared an ordinance into law to cut by 30 per cent the salaries of members of Parliament to ramp up funds in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sources said that amid some Members of Parliament testing positive for COVID-19 during the session, Opposition parties conveyed to the government that conducting the full 18-day session could be a risky affair.

The government then started thinking in that direction, the sources said.

Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Prahlad Patel have tested positive for COVID-19. Both had attended the ongoing session which began on September 14.

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Several MPs had tested positive for COVID-19 around the time the session began and they were advised not to attend proceedings.

In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus within the parliament complex, reporters and parliamentary staff entering the premises now have to undergo the rapid antigen test mandatory on a daily basis, according to a new protocol put in place.

Members of both Houses are undergoing RT-PCR test on regular intervals on a voluntary basis, said a senior Parliament official.

A member of Parliament can undergo RT-PCR test as many times he or she likes.

Journalists covering the Monsoon session from the press galleries of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha also have the option to undergo the RT-PCR test which is valid for 72 hours.

Since the report of the much reliable RT-PCR takes time, antigen test has been made mandatory on a daily basis.

Government officials accompanying their respective ministers during bill discussions also have to show a negative report of RT-PCR test taken within the last 72 hours of their visit to the complex.

The session began on September 14 and is slated to end on October 1. Both the House are meeting in shifts of four hours each without a customary Saturday-Sunday weekend break.

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    The Budget Session was short-terminated in March after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

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