Parliament CLOSES to visitors amid coronavirus crackdown

Parliament has imposed a ban on visitors and told elderly MPs and peers to stay away as it tries to stop the spread of coronavirus in the heart of British democracy. 

All non-essential access to the Palace of Westminster has been stopped from today. 

Only passholders and people on ‘essential Parliamentary business’ will now be allowed in. 

Meanwhile, MPs and members of the House of Lords who are over the age of 70 or those with underlying health problems have been urged to heed government advice and consider staying at home. 

Outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is 70, has said he intends to continue to work as normal. 

Parliamentary authorities had been under growing pressure to restrict access in recent days as two MPs tested positive for coronavirus and more than a dozen announced they were self-isolating. 

But Boris Johnson’s decision to ramp up the government’s response to the crisis by introducing social distancing measures has prompted Parliament to also toughen its approach. 

Visitors have been banned from the Houses of Parliament in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus in the heart of UK democracy

Jeremy Corbyn, 70, has said he intends to continue to work as normal despite the government advising over-70s to avoid unnecessary social contact

Jeremy Corbyn, 70, has said he intends to continue to work as normal despite the government advising over-70s to avoid unnecessary social contact

Parliament’s semi-shutdown means viewing galleries will no longer be open to visitors and tours of the famous building will cease. 

A spokesman for the UK Parliament said: ‘In line with the latest government advice and guidance from Public Health England, all visitor access to the Parliamentary Estate will stop from tomorrow. 

‘Access will be restricted to passholders and those on essential Parliamentary business.

‘The viewing galleries, used by visitors to watch proceedings in the Chambers, will be closed, and democratic access tours of Parliament will cease, along with commercial tours. The Education Centre will be closed, and school tours will also pause.’

Both Parliament and the government have been adamant that the House of Commons and House of Lords should both continue to sit so that democratic functions continue during the outbreak. 

But the new measures will likely have an impact on elderly members of both Houses with each expected to see a reduction in the number of people attending.

The latest Public Health England advice on social distancing states that anyone who is at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should be ‘particularly stringent’ in following the advice. 

Those in that group include all people aged over 70 regardless of medical conditions. 

Mr Corbyn, who is due to be replaced as Labour leader on April 4, said last night he would continue to work because he was ‘accepting the responsibilities that I have in this position’. 

He said: ‘I raised this very specific issue, not for myself but for other people. It’s more important that those who have underlying health problems, be it diabetes, be it heart conditions, be it lung conditions, be it people with emphysema, or industrial injuries that they’ve suffered, they’re likely to be more vulnerable than those that are healthy. 

‘So it is not just an age thing, there are clearly those that are more likely to be vulnerable. Personally speaking, I will carry on with my work, I will carry on accepting the responsibilities that I have in this position. And I’m not asking for any exceptions for myself. And I think that those who are over 70 should keep themselves fit, keep themselves healthy as should those under 70 as well.’

The Parliament UK spokesman said: ‘MPs, Peers, Parliamentary staff and other members of the Parliamentary community will continue to be able to work on the Estate where necessary. 

‘There will, in addition, be a reduction of catering facilities across the Estate. These steps are necessary to allow Parliament to continue to fulfil its constitutional duties and will be kept under constant review. 

‘They have been taken by the Speakers of both Houses, in consultation with Public Health England and according to Government advice. The steps are supported by the Clerks of both Houses and Parliamentary authorities.’

Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled unprecedented peacetime measures to try to control the spread of Covid-19 in the UK.

They were announced as the death toll of people with coronavirus in the UK reached 55.

In the first of his daily Number 10 press conferences, the Prime Minister called on people to stay away from pubs, clubs and theatres and to avoid all non-essential contact and travel. 

Meanwhile, entire households where one family member develops symptoms of either a fever or a persistent cough are being told to stay at home for 14 days.