International impact of Covid-19 on parliaments

Parliaments around the world have had to change how they operate due to Covid-19. From using heat sensors and social distancing to virtual sessions, we use Inter-Parliamentary Union data to bring you some examples of how Parliaments have adapted to the pandemic.  

Africa 

  • The Egyptian parliament has been meeting in person with preventative measures taken to ensure the safety of members of parliament and parliamentary staff. Measures have included social distancing and the sterilisation of the parliament building.  
  • In South Africa, the country’s parliament has amended its rules to enable both Houses—the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces—to operate remotely. Committees from both Houses have also been meeting remotely since 17 April 2020, with priority being given to committees conducting oversight of the government’s response to Covid-19 and the implementation of social distancing measures. 

Americas  

  • In March 2020, several resolutions were passed in Brazil to enable its parliament to work remotely during a public health emergency by using video conferencing and virtual management tools. At present, the Chamber of Deputies (513 members) and the Senate (81 members) are holding remote sessions that are broadcast to the public through the parliament’s media and digital platforms. 
  • The Guatemalan parliament has continued meeting in-person and has passed several laws and decrees in response to the pandemic. However, the law does not currently allow virtual sittings. Therefore, social distancing and protective measures have been implemented for members of parliament and parliamentary staff. This includes the use of face masks, gloves, and alcohol hand gel. In addition, only essential staff are working on the parliamentary estate, with all other staff being granted paid leave.  

Asia 

  • The House of Representatives in the Philippines has continued to sit, using a combination of remote and in-person meetings to pass legislation. For its plenary session on 4 May 2020, a maximum of 25 MPs were allowed to be physically present in the Session Hall. In addition, a ‘Defeat Covid-19 Committee’ has been established, meeting by video conference at least twice a week. 
  • In the Republic of Korea, a thermal image camera has been assembled in front of every building on the parliamentary estate. Everyone entering the buildings, whether employers or workers, has to undergo a mandatory temperature check and wear masks. In addition, all employees in parliament are encouraged to work from home for two to three days a week, depending on the nature of their work.  

Europe  

  • In response to the pandemic, the Senate in France is holding reduced plenary sittings. These sittings take place once a week and are limited to ten questions for the government. The sittings are only attended by the authors of the questions and presidents of political groups. In the National Assembly, the number of meetings has been reduced and they are being held remotely.  
  • In Germany, the Bundestag continues to sit but with a restricted programme and with fewer members in attendance. Consequently, business before the chamber has been prioritised to remove all but essential debates. 
     

Oceania 

  • In Australia, the country’s parliament agreed to a revised calendar to reduce the number of sitting days. In both Houses, government and opposition members and senators have unofficially been paired to maintain the party composition, meaning that fewer members and senators are present during sittings. In addition, special seating arrangements in both chambers have ensured that social distancing is maintained. Some committees have also continued to meet virtually, with others suspending their inquiries until “more favourable conditions return”.  

Image of the Korea National Assembly from Republic of Korea Flickr.