MPs, staffers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before resumption of parliamentary session

Members of Parliament along with other staffers at the New Baneshwor-based parliament building are all set to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the resumption House of Representatives.

Arrangements are being made to inoculate more than 1,400 people, including MPs, with the coordination of Federal Parliament Secretariat, Singha Durbar and Nepal Government.

Around 330 MPs from the House of Representatives (lower house) and National Assembly (upper house), more than 130 security officials (bouncers) and other employees that enter the parliament building will receive the jab at the Civil Hospital in New Baneshwor on March 3, 4 and 5.

The government has also been preparing to vaccinate citizens above 55 years of age from March 7.

According to the Parliament Secretariat, there are 113 MPs above 55 years of age in the House of Representatives alone.

Virologist Dr Basudev Pandey and Head of Immunization at the Department of Health Services Jhalak Gautam had made recommendations about the current seat arrangement at the parliament building and necessary health precautions to House Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota.

The experts had suggested to strictly follow COVID-related health precautions as more than 50 per cent of the lawmakers are over 50 years of age and are suffering from chronic illnesses.

They had also suggested mandatory use of masks and sanitizers, maintaining a distance of at least one meter, and getting vaccinated.

The Parliament Secretariat, meanwhile, has started preparations to conduct the lower house sessions in compliance with the health guidelines issued by the Government of Nepal and World Health Organization.

Though all lawmakers will be requested to get vaccinated, those who cannot receive the jab will be allowed to enter the building only after they undergo an antigen test to find out if they have been infected.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari, at the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, had unconstitutionally dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20, 2020.

However, the Supreme Court on February 23, 2021 ordered the reinstatement of parliament, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Oli two months after he dissolved the house and called for an early election amid squabbling within the ruling Nepal Communist Party.

The top court also ordered that parliament be convened within 13 days (March 7) of the ruling.