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COVID Protocols, Masks Return to Parliament

Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya also made a statement in the Lok Sabha in which he said the states have been urged to ensure that people maintain social distancing, wear masks and use sanitisers to prevent another wave of COVID-19 infections.

New Delhi: With the government advising people to follow COVID-19 precautions in view of a spurt of cases in some countries, these measures also made a return in parliament on Thursday. Both the Rajya Sabha chairperson Jagdeep Dhankar and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla urged members to follow the protocols, including wearing masks.

Meanwhile, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya also made a statement in the Lok Sabha in which he said the states have been urged to ensure that people maintain social distancing, wear masks and use sanitisers to prevent another wave of COVID-19 infections.

In the Parliament, which in 2020 had adopted several measures including special seating arrangements for members, the face mask made a visible return on Thursday as both Birla and Dhankar, the entire Parliament staff and most MPs and ministers turned up in them.

These special measures – including changing the seating arrangements for MPs by having some of them in the chambers and others in the galleries – were dropped in March this year and the legislators returned to normal sitting.

As soon as the Lok Sabha assembled, Birla said, “We should be vigilant keeping in mind the past trends of the pandemic.” He said COVID-19 cases were once again on the rise.

The speaker informed all the members that masks were available at the gates and urged them to use them.

In the Rajya Sabha, chairperson Jagdeep Dhankar urged members to follow COVID-19 protocols. He asked the members to “be extra-cautious about the surging COVID-19 cases in the world,” adding that the Upper House needs to lead the nation by example on this matter.

Health minister says states told to increase genome-sequencing

In his statement, health minister Mandaviya told the Lok Sabha that “in the wake of festive and new year season, states are advised to make sure people wear masks, use sanitisers and maintain social distancing along with increasing awareness for precautionary doses.”

He added that the Union government has advised the states to increase genome sequencing to identify the BF.7 subvariant of Omicron, which has caused a surge of cases in China, in a timely manner. This, he said, would help health officials keep track of new variants, if any, that may emerge. That would also help in providing the necessary treatment options for them.

“We are keeping an eye on the global COVID-19 situation and are taking steps accordingly,” he said, adding that there has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in several countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, France, and the US.

Also read: COVID-19: What We Know About New Omicron Variant BF.7

Random tests at airports

The minister said that the airports started to conduct random RT-PCR tests on 2% of international passengers in the country on December 22.

He added that overall, the number of COVID-19 cases was declining in India. However, he stressed that the pandemic was not yet over.

Earlier, an agency report had said that India has reported at least three cases of Omicron BF.7. sub-variant. All of these cases were detected between July and November.

He also appealed to the general public to expeditiously take their coronavirus vaccine and booster shots.

The Winter Session of Parliament will adjourn sine die on Friday, six days ahead of its schedule. During Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, when the opposition members demanded a discussion over the India-China border issue, parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi said the Business Advisory Committee has decided to adjourn the House sine die on Friday.

He said several important discussions are yet to be taken up along with some Bills, asking the opposition members to cooperate.