How is the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way parliaments work? Which parliaments continue to sit? How are they helping implement the emergency health measures recommended by the World Health Organization?
On this page, we list some of the measures being taken around the world. Our objective is to share parliamentary practice and facilitate inter-parliamentary communication. The list below is not exhaustive and the summaries are provided for information purposes only.
The information on this page does not necessarily reflect the position of the IPU or constitute an endorsement of a particular course of action. The IPU does not promote or endorse any brand or vendor of solution nor can we vouch for the suitability of the cited products for specific requirements.
Please note that we are trying to keep the information below as accurate as possible. However, as the situation evolves, some points may have changed since publishing.
Let us know how your parliament and parliamentarians are responding to the pandemic by writing to email@example.com or you can complete our 5-minute online survey Parliamentary working methods during the coronavirus crisis.
First published: 25 March 2020
Updated on 18 September 2020 with new information from the Republic of Korea.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Afghanistan (4 May 2020)
The Wolesi Jirga (House of People) of Afghanistan is supporting national efforts to stem the pandemic, including the Safe Hand Hygiene Campaign (#SafeHands) launched by WHO.
The Wolesi Jirga has restricted its meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it continues to scrutinize the Government’s actions. It holds regular sessions with the Minister of Public Health, members of the state committee for COVID-19 and the Emergency Task Force Committee to provide updates about COVID-19 cases in different provinces and decide on actions to overcome the crisis.
The House continues to meet physically, but with a limited number of plenary sessions and committee meetings, and fewer parliamentarians and staff in the building; others are working remotely. Given that there are 248 MPs in the Wolesi Jirga, social distancing can be easily observed in the parliamentary meetings room, which can accommodate 500 people.
Afghan MPs are also supporting the poor and needy both economically and through the provision of food.
From 2 May, the Wolesi Jirga will be under quarantine for three weeks.
Albania (17 April 2020)
Parliamentary meetings are taking place remotely using software from an external service provider.
All activity in the Andorran parliament has been adjourned until 15 April except for urgent issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A plenary session to debate and vote urgent bills linked pandemic was held with restrictions (with only 4 staff members and 15 MPs to allow for social distancing). The number of MPs present was the minimum required by the Rules of Procedure.
A remote meeting on the crisis is held daily between the Government and the Parliament.
Angola (30 April 2020)
The National Assembly of Angola held its first Plenary by video conference. MPs participated from different rooms in the Parliament building, local offices and their homes. In this way, all MPs were able to participate and made the quorum, thus being able to approve a resolution renewing the state of emergency in the country.
National Assembly regulations allow for electronic voting.
Zoom is being used for video conferences.
The Argentinian Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have received proposals to amend their Rules of Procedure to allow remote working by videoconference for extraordinary situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to guarantee the continuity of the legislative work, both chambers have taken measures for teleworking.
The President of the Chamber of Deputies has approved working remotely through a digital platform and videoconferencing on Zoom. The videoconferences are broadcast live on Diputados TV. Deputies have access to a digital signature through the Token system for the tabling of projects.
In the Senate, committee meetings will take place via videoconference and will be broadcast on the channel Senado TV. A new remote working platform, Senado Móvil, has also been set up, and can be accessed with the Senate’s internal username and password. It allows access to the Intranet, institutional emails, the “Comdoc” administrative system and shared files so that coordinated tasks can be carried out in workgroups. A remote help desk has been made available for consultations and advice.
All administrative activities are suspended. A special license (which does not affect remuneration) has been granted to all staff, except for the areas that cannot completely be suspended, and to the legislators and high authorities of the Chambers who keep working remotely. Nevertheless, staff may be summoned in case that emergency sessions need to be convened. Events open to the public are also suspended.
To help to fight the pandemic, the Chamber of Deputies has decided to earmark the savings in subsidies and for the Deputies’ transport for the country’s health system. Some Senators have also agreed to donate part of their salary to the cause. Both chambers are also promoting the information provided by the Ministry of Health on COVID-19, and the Senate’s website links to the Ministry’s recommendations and preventive measures.
Armenia (7 May 2020)
Meetings are taking place as normal. The Rules of Procedure do not provide for remote sessions. However, discussions are taking place in the National Assembly Council about the possibility of passing amendments if needed.
Australia (28 July 2020)
Both Houses of the Parliament sat from 10 to 18 June 2020 in what was the first full sitting fortnight since the beginning of March. In the first week, the Houses sat on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (the first sitting Friday since 2008). A revised sitting calendar was agreed on 14 May with the Parliament scheduled to sit next on 4 August. With an escalation of coronavirus transmission in parts of the country, the Speaker of the House of Representatives notified Members that the House will meet next on 24 August and the President notified Senators in similar terms.
The House of Representatives resolved on 23 March to allow the House to meet in a manner and form not otherwise provided by the standing orders (if the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business agree). The way in which Members may be present (including for quorum purposes) is to be determined by the Speaker. For the sittings held on 23 March, 8 April, 12-14 May and 10-18 June the normal quorum requirement was met. Standing orders were amended on 23 March to enable motions to suspend standing orders without notice to be carried by a simple majority (rather than an absolute majority) if the Leader of the House and Manager of Opposition Business agree. This option has been exercised.
The Senate had also agreed that it may meet in a manner and form not otherwise provided for in the standing orders with the agreement of the Leaders of the Government and the Opposition in the Senate, with rules determined by the Procedure Committee. While this provision was a necessary safeguard, minor adjustments to chamber proceedings have sufficed to accommodate the impact of the pandemic without the need to invoke this order. The Senate also established a wide-ranging select committee to scrutinise the Government’s response to the pandemic.
Pairing of Government and Opposition Members and Senators (an unofficial arrangement) has been used to maintain the party composition of the Houses while fewer Members and Senators are present in the chambers during sittings. Special seating arrangements in the House and Senate chambers ensure appropriate distances are maintained. The viewing galleries have been closed to the public and, from 25 March, Parliament House itself has been closed to visitors. All chamber proceedings continue to be broadcast on the Parliament’s website. Many parliamentary staff have been working from home.
Some committees, having suspended their inquiries until more favourable conditions returned, are now resuming their regular inquiry work. Others continue to meet virtually using tele and video-conferencing arrangements.
On 2 July the Speaker and the President of the Senate announced that Parliament House will reopen to the public from Saturday, 4 July and that school visits will be available from Monday, 20 July. The reopening will be staged, and subject to COVID-safe measures. Further advice on access to the public galleries of the Senate and House of Representatives, and to committee hearings, will be provided before Parliament resumes sitting in August.
Austria (27 May 2020)
Remote meetings are not allowed in the Federal Constitution or the Rules of Procedure, so the Parliament had to adopt practices to comply with hygiene and safety recommendations. Procedures are being fast-tracked so that necessary decisions can be taken within two to three days.
Since at least a third of the members must be present for a vote (half, in case of constitutional amendments), parliamentary groups agreed to limit the number of MPs present proportionally during the first phase of the pandemic. It was also agreed that Parliament would deal only with necessary business. These measures have been eased in mid-April, and business is now being conducted in near-normal ways.
The sitting arrangements in the chamber have been adapted to guarantee the recommended distances between MPs. Additional sitting for MPs has been provided in the gallery. All voting is held at the end of each sitting day to avoid a crowded chamber. Voting by roll call takes place by MPs casting their vote by voice.
The media is allowed into the gallery, provided that there is sufficient space. In order to provide the public with a full view of the proceedings, the national public broadcasting service, ORF, is allowed to operate two TV cameras on the floor of the chamber. The Parliamentary Administration is continuing to hold press briefings.
As the Austrian Parliament is being renovated, most staff have been working in temporary offices and have already been given laptops. As a result, remote working could be easily set up, and most staff is working from home. Only those whose presence is absolutely necessary are working in on site (such as security, technicians, chancellery). Clerks of committee and plenary sittings are only present on sitting days. Remote working will continue through the next few weeks, especially with regard to staff that has care responsibilities for school-children or elderly relatives or those who belong to risk groups.
Azerbaijan (2 June 2020)
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Milli Majlis (Parliament) of Azerbaijan has held 12 plenary meetings and has taken urgent decisions to alleviate the consequences of the pandemic.
Milli Majlis continues to hold physical meetings by following all the necessary restrictions and recommendations of the WHO. Social distancing measures are in place, and MPs and staff members are using masks and gloves, and using hand sanitizer. Members of Milli Majlis aged 65 and above are not attending sessions. There are fewer Committee meetings, which are taking place through video conferencing.
Bahrain (21 April 2020)
Both the Shura Council and the Council of Representatives held their first remote meeting on 12 and 14 April respectively. MS Teams software is used for remote meetings while other communication is carried out through internally hosted software which can also be used for remote interpretation when needed.
The legislative authority of Bahrain is working with the government to ensure the safety of citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of the government’s economic and financial package to address the pandemic's consequences. It approved a draft law ensuring the payment of salaries of private sector employees for the months of April, May and June. It also adopted a number of proposals referred to the government, including on distance learning; partial curfew; enhancement of e-government services; bonuses for staff and volunteers serving on the coronavirus front lines; financial aid to medium, small and micro private sector companies and institutions; the establishment of a provident fund with contributions from businessmen, national companies, banks and individuals; and remote work for working women.
The precautionary measures taken by the General Secretariat of the Council of Representatives are: swipe-in attendance magnetic cards; sanitizing of premises on a daily basis; setting up of posters and videos on how to prevent infection and recognize symptoms; instructions when to self-isolate; temperature taking at entry gates; work in shifts to prevent overcrowding; in addition to working mothers, remote work for employees with chronic diseases, disabilities and care providers.
Belgium (23 June 2020)
In March, the Belgian House of Representatives amended its Rules of Procedure to allow Members, under certain conditions, to be considered as "present" at selected committee and plenary meetings even when they are not physically in the chamber, and to vote electronically or by email.
Remote committee meetings voting is done by a show of hands or a verbal nominal vote using the software Zoom. For the plenary sitting, voting is through a digital voting system that has been newly developed by the parliament’s IT department available to members physically present or remotely.
The committee meetings and plenary sittings of the Belgian House of Representatives are always interpreted in at least two languages (Dutch/French), and in most cases streamed via the House's website.
In May, the Belgian Senate adopted similar amendments to its Rules of Procedure and adapted its activities accordingly. The Senate didn’t specify deliberately how the remote electronic vote needs to be organized but the procedure has to comply with article 55 of the Constitution (roll call vote / principle of public vote and individual responsibility of each member).
Belize (24 June 2020)
On 1 April 2020, the Governor-General declared a state of public emergency in Belize because of the COVID-19 pandemic for one month. Given the continuing health emergency, the House of Representatives and the Senate conducted special sittings on 27 and 28 April to adopt a motion on extending the period of public emergency for two months.
In both special sittings, the number of members present was reduced to maintain social distancing.
Bhutan (17 April 2020)
Meetings in the Bhutan parliament have been limited. A parliamentary Committee on COVID-19 Preparedness gives legislative support to the Government, looks at the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and provides necessary recommendations.
Virtual meetings take place via Google software. Any physical meetings respect social distancing measures.
Bolivia (28 April 2020)
Both chambers of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly (the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Senators) have agreed to hold exceptional virtual sessions during the health emergency. Testing is currently underway.
Laws passed include one for the prevention, containment and treatment of coronavirus, and on reprogramming credit payments and basic services. Measures contained in these laws include free treatment of COVID-19 patients; sanitary control points at borders and land and air terminals to detect the coronavirus; a reduced working day for both public and private sector workers; deferment of debt payments; a 50 per cent reduction in the monthly payment for essential services such as potable water, sewerage, electricity, household gas and telecommunications.
MPs from both chambers are carrying out parliamentary work in coordination with local entities to stop the spread of the coronavirus. They are visiting different areas in their departments to distribute food, medicine or other items to families with limited economic resources.
MPs representing Bolivia in international parliamentary bodies have adopted a resolution calling for international institutions to take action and cooperate to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. The resolution also says, that due to the impact of the pandemic on economies, external debt payments should be deferred until the economies recover.
Brazil (26 May 2020)
Brazil has passed a new resolution which enables the Parliament to work remotely during a public health emergency using video-conferencing and virtual management tools. The system allows MPs to register to a session and shows all phases of the legislative process including the bill under discussion, amendments, the results of each voting round, speeches, and committee agendas.
The Chamber of Deputies (513 members) and the Senate (81 members) are holding remote sessions that are livecast to the public through the Parliament’s media and digital platforms.
The resolution also specifies that face-to-face deliberations must be resumed as soon as sessions can be organized that are compatible with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health.
The Brazilian Parliament is sharing details of its technology solutions with other parliaments. More information from the Chamber of Deputies here and the Federal Senate here. See also the website of the Chamber of Deputies with the latest updates on the virtual plenaries.
The Bulgarian Parliament has voted to suspend all plenary sessions for the duration of the State of Emergency, which has been extended to 13 April for now. The National Assembly will only consider issues directly related to the coronavirus emergency regime.
Burkina Faso (7 July 2020)
Meetings are limited or reduced. Plenaries and committee meetings are being held physically with a reduced number of MPs, and the other MPs are joining through videoconference.
Cabo Verde (21 April 2020)
The National Assembly of Cabo Verde has reduced the number of its meetings and some are held remotely. It has introduced measures such as hand hygiene, social distancing, working with a minimum number of deputies, ensuring appropriate seating arrangements for deputies attending plenary sessions.
The National Assembly met on 1 April in an Extraordinary Plenary Session with a reduced number of MPs (38), observing social distancing. The Parliament ratified the authorization of the Permanent Commission to the President for the declaration of the state of emergency. MPs also debated and approved the Government's legislative proposals that included emergency measures in response to the epidemiological and socioeconomic situation caused by COVID-19, which resulted in a law.
Commissions are working remotely, through e-mails and by telephone, and parliamentary employees have been invited to work from home. Meetings of the Permanent Committee and the Bureau are carried out remotely with the use of new technologies. The National Assembly is working with the minimum necessary to ensure the functioning of the institution.
Cambodia (12 May 2020)
The National Assembly of Cambodia has put in place a number of preventive measures including hand sanitizers, masks and social distancing. Staff and visitors are required to wear masks, and their temperatures are checked at the entrance to the building. Staff returning from overseas visits are put into isolation rooms for 14 days under close supervision. Staff of the Secretariat-General are allowed to work from home.
Canada (15 May 2020)
On 11 April 2020, the Parliament of Canada was recalled and passed legislation respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19. The Senate adjourned until 2 June 2020. On 20 April 2020, the House of Commons resumed sitting to conduct parliamentary business and then adjourned until 25 May 2020.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance have been holding virtual meetings weekly since the week of 30 March 2020 to receive evidence related to the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On 11 April 2020, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion that the following committees will also meet via tele- or videoconference for the sole purpose of receiving evidence related to the COVID-19 pandemic: the Standing Committees on Government Operations and Estimates; Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities; and on Industry, Science and Technology Procedure and House Affairs. These committees held their first meetings on either 23 April or 24 April 2020.
The same motion directs the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs “to study ways in which members can fulfill their parliamentary duties while the House stands adjourned, including the temporary modification of certain procedures, sittings in alternate locations and technological solutions including a virtual Parliament” and to report to the House of Commons by 15 May 2020. It held its first meeting on 16 April 2020.
On 20 April 2020, the House of Commons adopted on division a motion that establishes a Special Committee on COVID-19 pandemic composed of all Members and chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons. The committee will meet by videoconference twice a week, subject to technological capabilities, and in the chamber once a week. The first meeting of this committee is scheduled for 28 April 2020.
On 11 April 2020, the Senate adopted a motion authorizing that, while the Senate stands adjourned, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology meet by tele- or videoconference to examine the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These committees have not yet met. The Senate also adopted a motion authorizing the establishment of a Special Senate Committee on the Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic and Future Preparedness. The organizational meeting for this committee is ordered to take place not earlier than October 2020.
Themes related to women and gender equality have been raised in the House of Commons Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as in other House of Commons standing committees meeting to examine the Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The themes include:
- increased rates of domestic violence and sexual assaults during the lockdown, with more women seeking assistance;
- the economic impact of lockdown and decline in commercial activities, which disproportionately affect women and sectors where women are highly represented;
- the impact on women who make up the majority of single-parent households, compounded by loss of spousal support payments, and on women as disproportionately responsible for childcare and importance of access to affordable and quality childcare;
- the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women who make up a high proportion of workers in the health sector and personal care workers, and the increased strain from exposure to COVID-19;
- vulnerability of older women as disproportionate residents of long-term care facilities;
- the importance of recognizing gender differences and data collection in the development and application of various government emergency programmes and policies; and
- ensuring gender representation in virtual parliament.
Chile (17 April 2020)
The Senate is holding sessions remotely but the Board is chairing the meetings from the sessions room. The Senate has passed a law allowing it to hold sessions remotely, using the appropriate technology to allow debates and remote voting. Videoconferencing is through the software Zoom.
The Chamber of Deputies has limited its plenary and committee meetings. In-person and remote voting is through an application developed by its own technical teams. Videoconferencing is through the software Zoom.
The National People’s Congress of China is currently not in session. Meetings have been limited.
Colombia (8 June 2020)
A Presidential decree allows non-face-to-face meetings in the collegiate bodies of the branches of Public Power, including the Congress of the Republic.
The Congress of Colombia has been promoting a gender-sensitive approach to the COVID-19 response through the work of the Women’s Equality Commission, which brings together members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Commission focuses on highlighting and addressing the alarming levels of violence against women, especially intra-family violence, as well as the specific needs of rural women. It has requested that violence prevention and response, as well as support to victims, be considered essential services during the crisis.
Reports of domestic abuse in the country have increased by 200 per cent. The Commission launched a social media campaign called #MujeresSinVirusdeViolencia to sensitize the population on preventing and responding to gender-based violence. It also held hearings with relevant Ministries and the Women’s Equality Agency on action to mitigate the economic impact of the crisis on women in the short and medium terms.
Costa Rica (17 April 2020)
Parliamentary meetings have been limited or reduced. Plenary and Committee meetings cannot be held remotely. However, plenary meetings take place in an auditorium where social distancing rules can be respected.
Croatia (23 April 2020)
The Croatian Parliament has limited its meetings. Special measures have been passed to enable Committees to holding meetings remotely. Committees vote via email or SMS. After the Easter break, the Parliament resumed working in the parliament building, which was repaired after being damaged in the severe earthquake of 22 March. For the first time, voting in the plenary session was held in three different halls in order to ensure social distancing.
The Parliament's Bureau agreed to adopt changes to the Rules of Procedure that would deal with the functioning of the Parliament in extraordinary circumstances, such as the COVID19 pandemic.
Sanitary measures – such as social distancing, hand sanitizers, seating arrangements – have been put in place. Microsoft Office packages and word processors are used for remote meetings as well as for the provision and tracking of documents. Remote meeting software is hosted internally on the Parliament’s infrastructure.
Cuba’s National Assembly of the People’s Power and its standing committees are working and meeting remotely. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Assembly is working to build the capacity of its deputies, officials and staff in its auxiliary offices, conducted by experts of the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine.
The Health Committee participates in the meetings of the National Technical Group set up by the President of Cuba and acts as a liaison with the Assembly regarding measures and actions to be undertaken. The President of the Committee is in direct contact with the municipalities and updates the President of the National Assembly and the members of the Health Committee. The Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs is pursuing its legislative work and has not rescheduled its debates, drafting and voting sessions.
All hygienic and sanitary measures have been undertaken and are monitored by the sanitary authorities. The Assembly is maintaining an active presence on social networks as a way of interacting closely with the civil society and population.
The plenary of the Parliament of the Czech Republic is currently not in session. Committee meetings have been reduced or cancelled and only a few are taking place remotely. There is no legal framework for holding remote meetings; they are being held under the same rules as in-house meetings. Remote voting is possible but must be made visible. The software used is Webex and is hosted internally.
Democratic Republic of Congo (15 May 2020)
The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo authorized a plenary session with a reduced number of MPs to vote in the prolongation the health emergency until 15 May 2020. Only 64 out of 500 MPs from the lower house and around 30 out of 109 from the upper house attended. The absent MPs sent in their votes through telephone, message or WhatsApp.
The Parliament building has been disinfected. Plenary sessions have been reduced to the minimum. People in the building are obliged to wear masks and wash hands regularly. Social distancing is observed, and people entering the building have their temperature taken.
These measures have allowed the parliament to hold a plenary session on 23 April to adopt a law authorizing the health emergency to be prolonged. The Government is expected to submit a draft amendment to the budget for adoption by the Parliament in order to adjust the national budget in view of the economic fluctuations caused by the pandemic.
Denmark (23 April 2020)
Meetings in Parliament are taking place only on urgent matters with a reduced number of parliamentarians. The number of Committee meetings have been reduced and are taking place by video conference. From 20 April, the Danish Parliament is slowly reopening certain activities. Party groups will be allowed to meet again in some of the largest meeting rooms to respect social distancing.
Djibouti (29 April 2020)
On 5 April, the National Assembly of Djibouti set up an ad hoc support and follow-up committee to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The newly established committee includes 20 per cent of women parliamentarians, slightly below the proportion of women in the National Assembly which stands at 26.5 per cent.The committee meetings will be limited in keeping with WHO hygienic and medical recommendations. Following Rule 6 of the Internal Regulations of the National Assembly, the Speaker convoked the Bureau to determine working modalities during the pandemic on, for example, voting on urgent bills or those vital in addressing the pandemic, and conducting oversight over the executive. All other activities have been suspended until further notice.
Dominican Republic (7 July 2020)
On 19 March, the state of emergency was declared with the agreement of the Parliament. On 15 May, the state of emergency was extended for the third time.
A Joint Committee has been established to follow up the Government’s actions during the state of emergency.
Preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic have been implemented in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Both Chambers follow a special schedule: working hours are from 8:00 to 13:00, work is suspended on Fridays during the emergency period, and access is restricted to outsiders who have symptoms related to COVID-19 or acute respiratory diseases. These measures are published on the front page of the parliamentary website of each Chamber, followed by a contact number and an e-mail for further details.
Both chambers are working with 50 per cent of the staff.
Some deputies have donated their salaries to alleviate the health and economic crisis.
East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) (7 May 2020)
The EALA is the legislative arm of the East African Community (EAC), an intergovernmental organization comprising of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Committee meetings have been held remotely using Cisco Video Conferencing System from an external provider. The first plenary meeting is being held on 7 May 2020.
At a seven-hour remote meeting, the National Assembly agreed a draft resolution setting out political and social commitments to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The resolution recognizes the important role played by the National Health Service and calls for resources to be assigned to it as a matter of priority. It also asks the national government to ensure that medical staff have the necessary equipment, medicines and protections to face the pandemic. During the debate, MPs insisted on the importance of continuing exercising parliamentary oversight over the executive and of ensuring transparency and access to information.
The National Assembly also issued a solidarity statement signed by all parties calling for the Ministry of Economy and Finance to release all available cash resources to cover the costs and investments required by the state of emergency, particularly to support a fully functioning national health service and to keep the social protection system and ancillary services (police, security, logistics) running.
The all-party statement also asked the Government to join forces with other Latin American and Caribbean countries and the Organization of American States to appeal to multilateral institutions and creditors to temporarily suspend external debt repayments.
Egypt (4 May 2020)
The Egyptian parliament is meeting during the pandemic, and preventive measures have been taken to preserve the safety of members of Parliament and parliamentary staff, such as social distancing and sterilization of the Parliament building.
The Egyptian parliament passed a package of important laws to address the repercussions of the pandemic:
- making an additional appropriation in the state's public budget to counter the consequences of the pandemic;
- postponing the payment of taxes in sectors affected by the pandemic;
- amending the emergency law to include allowing the President of the Republic or whoever he delegates to take appropriate measures to deal with the health emergency, including closing schools and universities, closing or partially closing government ministries and departments, and letting people delay payments for electricity, gas and water services.
In connection with the emergency situation declared by the Government of Estonia, the Parliament of Estonia (the Riigikogu) has reorganized its work. Until 1 May this year, the Riigikogu will resolve only time-critical issues. The Riigikogu is holding sittings only on Mondays, with Question Time on Wednesdays. The public and the media can watch live coverage of the sittings on the web.
The committees of the Riigikogu have been meeting once a week with priority given to teleworking. Regarding committees meeting remotely, the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu agreed that the current legislation may be interpreted to allow teleworking if all relevant conditions for participating in the sitting, like making remarks, asking questions and voting, are ensured. Guests who are invited to committee sittings are advised to participate via a video bridge. Remote voting and virtual participation are also under consideration in the context of plenary sittings.
The Council of Elders of the Riigikogu, consisting of the Board of the Riigikogu and the representatives of the factions, will meet regularly to ensure prompt responses to the situation.
Eswatini (7 July 2020)
The Parliament is meeting physically and observing social distancing. No remote meetings are being held; physical meetings involve mostly chairs of parliamentary committees. Zoom is being used for external meetings, hosted by an external service provider.
European Parliament (29 April 2020)
European Parliament continues its essential activities and thus ensuring critical democratic infrastructure, in particular the plenary sessions, parliamentary committees and governing bodies. All Members are allowed to be present unless they are sick or have travelled to risk areas in the past two weeks. Those who wish or cannot physically attend can participate remotely. Social distancing measures within the Chamber are taken for the Members who come.
The Chairperson of the Women’s Rights Parliamentary Committee of the European Parliament issued a press release urging the European Union and member states to increase support to victims of domestic violence during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Finnish Parliament has put in place specific measures to avoid close contact for roll calls, sittings and voting as well as special seating arrangements. Parliamentarians are allowed to participate in parliamentary work remotely; however, remote voting is not possible.
Parliamentary committees can still sit but their schedules have been heavily reduced to treat only matters of absolute necessity.
A parliamentarian may work in their office in Parliament but they are advised against using public transport. The lockdown of the Uusimaa region (including the capital Helsinki) does not prevent parliamentarians from travelling to their constituency.
France (3 July 2020)
The French Senate is holding reduced plenary sittings – only one plenary sitting a week, limited to 10 questions for the government. They are attended only by the authors of questions and presidents of political groups. Three committees hold meetings remotely for hearings with ministers and to exchange views. There is no legal framework for the holding of remote meetings. No special measures have been adopted on holding video-conference committee meetings as there is no voting. The software used for remote meetings is Tixeo.
The National Assembly of France has reduced the number of its meetings and is holding them remotely. Committee meetings are limited to hearings and debates on issues within their remit regarding the coronavirus crisis. The decision to proceed in this manner was taken by the Conference of Presidents composed of the President and Vice-Presidents of the National Assembly, the presidents of the political groups, committee presidents, and the minister in charge of relations with Parliament. Apart from three urgent bills on the COVID-19 pandemic, committees have not been holding meetings on legislative texts.
On 17 March, the National Assembly put in place a fact-finding mission presided by the Speaker that brought together the presidents of all the standing committees, the leaders of political parties and MPs. Read the report (in French).
The fact-finding mission is now an enquiry committee to evaluate the actions of the Government and political bodies. The committee is headed by the President of the Committee on Social Affairs and member of the majority party. The rapporteur is from the opposition. The Committee’s report will be presented in December 2020.
On 30 June, in a public hearing, the Senate unanimously adopted a draft resolution to create an enquiry committee to evaluate public policies for pandemics in light of the COVID-19 crisis and how it was managed. The enquiry committee will evaluate whether adequate contingency plans were in place; how the health crisis was managed by the political and administrative systems; and the lessons learned from the experiences of European and Asian countries.
Remote meetings (audio and video-conferencing) are regulated legally and, while remote voting is not legally authorized, committees can carry out debates and hearings.
As for software, Zoom is being tested. No software is being used for the transmission of documents. All parliamentary documents and summary records can be consulted online on the National Assembly’s intranet and internet sites. Amendments to legal texts can be uploaded and accessed remotely through “Eloi” (eLaw), an internal application developed by the National Assembly.
Remote meeting software is hosted by an external service provider.
Parliamentary committees can still sit but their schedules have been heavily reduced to treat only matters of absolute necessity.
Georgia (29 April 2020)
Meetings of the Parliament are reduced and held through a combination of remote and face-to-face meetings. However, there is no voting.
The Parliament is also conducting oversight of public health and economic policy measures. Draft regulations for remote operations have been prepared.
The meetings are held on a Cisco-supported platform, which is hosted internally. Interpretation is integrated into the communication channels.
The Bundestag is continuing to sit but with a restricted programme and fewer Members present. Business before the chamber has been prioritized to remove all but essential debates. Discussions are ongoing on how to manage the quorum of the Bundestag with a significantly reduced number of deputies.
Greece (17 April 2020)
During the crisis, the Parliament has decided to adapt its work to avoid having too many Members present at the same time.
The Standing Committees meet when necessary both physically and remotely.
Regarding plenary sessions, bills are discussed and the floor is given only for half of the time provided by the Standing Orders (Rules of Procedure) to the Rapporteurs, Special Speakers, Parliamentary Groups' Representatives, one or few speakers from each Parliamentary Group, the Ministers, and, upon request, to the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Opposition parties.
The speakers (except from the rapporteurs) address their colleagues from their seat and not the podium. For voting, Members of Parliament enter and exit the Plenary room one by one to avoid overcrowding. Postal votes are also accepted.
A remote system of meetings was developed, tested and ready to run two days before the quarantine started. The software is cloud based but tailored to the needs of the Hellenic Parliament with encryption and interface configuration of special parameters.
The Guatemalan Parliament has continued working and has passed five laws and decrees in response to the health crisis. Since the law does not currently allow virtual sittings, social distancing and protection measures have been taken for both MPs and staff, using masks, gloves and alcohol hand gel. Only essential staff are coming into work; all others have been granted paid leave.
The first emergency law to protect Guatemalans from the effects of the pandemic decreed that vulnerable families would receive coupons to buy essential goods and introduced measures to help the elderly and farming production. A laboratory will be set up in each region for testing for and containing COVID-19, and more medical staff will be hired. An economic rescue law was passed to grant 1,000 quetzales to poor families and single mothers, set up an employment protection fund, and grant loans to stimulate the economy. A subsequent decree introduced additional measures to protect the public, including guaranteeing essential services, such as drinking water, power, and telephone, cable and internet services. Education establishments have been granted access to loans at preferential interest rates to keep them up and running. Parliament approved the use of funds from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration to design, build and equip three new hospitals in different parts of the country. Most recently, Parliament passed a law allocating more resources to education, infrastructure, direct and indirect job creation, economic stimulus measures, and the health system.
Hungary (15 July 2020)
Pursuant to the Fundamental Law, Hungary’s Constitution, on 11 March 2020 the Government declared a so-called state of danger, which provided for extraordinary measures to be introduced and for decrees to be issued that may deviate from or – with the exception of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution – suspend existing legal provisions.
Under the Constitution, such decrees are in force for a period of 15 days, unless the National Assembly grants a mandate to the Government to extend this period. The National Assembly did so by passing Act XII of 2020, which authorized such decrees to be extended until the end of the state of danger, while retaining the National Assembly’s right to revoke this mandate at any time. The Act also set forth the Government’s continuous obligation to inform the National Assembly – or, in the absence of a plenary session, the Speaker and the heads of the parliamentary groups – about its decisions on a weekly basis until the end of the state of danger.
During the state of danger, the National Assembly continued to hold regular weekly sessions, albeit with certain safety measures – mainly ensuring safe physical distancing by moving the plenary sessions to a hall with more seating capacity, and asking that members only stay in the plenary chamber for the duration of their contributions or the vote.
The Office of the National Assembly also provided MPs and staff with personal protection equipment as required. Most parliamentary staff switched to teleworking on laptops and other devices provided by the Office of the National Assembly.
The ParLex system, in place since 2017, allows the entire scope of parliamentary motions – bills, proposals for amendments, questions, etc. – to be submitted electronically. This system does not, however, support remote voting.
National Assembly members assumed their share of the global struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund – the partnership between the WHO, the United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Fund. Every single member of the Hungarian Parliament agreed to send 50 per cent of their 2020 annual IPU membership fee, which is deducted from their remuneration, to the Solidarity Response Fund.
Following the stabilization of the COVID-19 situation in Hungary on 16 June 2020, the National Assembly unanimously decided to terminate the state of danger and lift the emergency powers handed to the Government in March. Based on that decision, the Government ceased the state of danger on 18 June 2020, which resulted in the repeal of the decrees issued during the 98 days of the special legal order.
Since then, the National Assembly has passed Act LVIII on temporary health measures related to the epidemic, which established a state of epidemiological preparedness. This law puts in place predictable transitional regulations and the necessary precautionary measures to protect the safety, lives and health of citizens, as well as stabilizing the national economy until the end of the pandemic.
Unlike during the state of danger, the Government cannot act on behalf of the National Assembly during the state of epidemiological preparedness and is allowed to take measures only on the grounds of the Act on Health Care. The state of health emergency declared on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer shall not last longer than six months.
Iceland (21 April 2020)
The number of MPs in the plenary meetings of the Parliament of Iceland, the Althingi, has been reduced, based upon agreement between the parliamentary groups. Only emergency bills are being handled at the moment. Remote voting is not possible under the current Standing Orders (set by law in Iceland) and the Constitution of Iceland. Consequently, voting in the plenary carefully respects social distancing.
Since March 21, all participation in Committee Meetings is remote, using Jitsi software.
The Indonesian Parliament has adopted several measures in response to the pandemic including remote-working for employees, hand sanitizers and physical distancing in meeting rooms.
The Parliament held a hearing on 30 March 2020 with most Members using a video-conferencing application.
Seminars or work visits to the Parliament are not permitted, except those related to the pandemic.
Iran (17 April 2020)
The Islamic Parliament of Iran has limited its meetings and uses video conferencing or remote technology when possible. Any physical meetings observe social distancing particularly as some MPs have been diagnosed with the corona virus.
In cooperation with the Government, the Parliament has approved support packages and financial aids for vulnerable people, particularly low-paid workers who are most affected by the pandemic.
In Ireland there was a general election on 8 February and the process of government formation is ongoing. The Seanad general election is currently underway. It is normal in this period that there would be few sittings. Both Houses met to pass emergency legislation in late March.
Both Houses are currently adjourned - Dáil Éireann until 16 April and there is no date set for the Seanad.
Special measures for sittings have been put in place due to COVID-19 to ensure the safety of Members, staff and others working in parliament:
- One third of Deputies attend Dáil meetings. Members were also asked to maintain an appropriate distance in accordance with public health advice.
- Parliamentary business has been restricted and generally relates to urgent COVID-19 business
- Dáil Parliamentary Questions have been suspended.
- Voting is currently by either 'voice vote' or 'roll call vote' with Members remaining in their seats. "Voice Votes" are a normal procedure in the Dáil, the use of "roll call votes" is an innovation due to COVID-19 if members call for a full division. The usual 'manual vote' where members walk through the lobbies is not currently in use. "Electronic voting" is not being used pending Government formation.
The Irish Constitution does not provide for the possibility of remote voting by the Dáil.
Israel (1 July 2020)
Following parliamentary elections held in Israel in March 2020, the 23rd Knesset was sworn in. Temporary committees were formed to deal with urgent business until the formation of the government and establishment of the Standing Committees. One such committee was the Special Committee for Dealing with the Novel Coronavirus, formed on 24 March, which held several meetings on issues related to the response to Covid-19.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a parliamentary committee must be set up to oversee emergency powers given to the Israeli Security Agency that allow it to use surveillance technology to track the movements of people with COVID-19.
In May the new government was formed, and subsequently all 12 permanent committees of the 23rd Knesset were established and are currently active. Five new special committees have been formed, including a Special Committee on the Novel Coronavirus and for Examining the State’s Preparations for Epidemics and Earthquakes.
From the week of 3 May 2020, the Ministry of Health allowed the reopening of most industries, including those in the public sector, under the social distancing rules and strict hygiene conditions of the "Purple Badge" – a set of specific rules for opening businesses and services, receiving customers and employing workers. The Knesset administration has implemented the Purple Badge rules set out by the Ministry of Health for the public service.
Therefore, there is currently no limitation on the number of MKs who can attend plenary and committee meetings, apart from those who have been exposed to verified Covid-19 patients or have tested positive However, MKs in preventative isolation can come to the Knesset to vote in the plenary. They must wear a mask and gloves and be escorted by an usher in protective gear through a separate entrance to the public gallery of the plenary, and must leave by the same entrance, avoiding contact with other people.
The rules of the Knesset do not allow for remote participation or voting in the Plenary. The current guidelines stipulate that all 120 MKs can participate and vote in the plenary at the same time, as long as social distancing is observed. This is implemented by dividing the MKs between the two levels of the plenary hall: the floor of the plenary, and the press gallery, with one or two empty seats left between them. Each MK has an assigned seat on one of the two levels, and can vote from his/her place through the electronic voting system that has been routed to the new seats by the Computer and Technology Department of the Knesset.
According to guidelines adopted at the beginning of the outbreak, the Knesset committees were convened simultaneously in two large committee meeting rooms with a video connection between them so that all those present in both rooms were considered to be present in the meeting. To allow for social distancing and to limit the number of those present in each room, only MKs (including those who were not members of the committee) and Knesset staff were allowed to enter the rooms; other participants joined in the meetings using Zoom. In each room, a staff member was present to assist in counting votes when necessary.
On 19 April the Temporary House Committee decided to allow MKs to participate in committee meetings by videoconference, but only if they had been positively diagnosed with Covid-19, were in home isolation, or were in a high-risk group. However, this decision only relates to remote participation and does not allow for voting remotely.
More recently, some of the committee meetings have been held in one large committee room, which was possible because of the Perspex partitions placed between each of the seating places, allowing for seating of up to 43 persons.
The microphones and seating areas are cleaned between all parliamentary meetings, including the plenary.
Regarding parliamentary staff, all employees needed to run meetings must be physically present; some of those who can work from home are doing so. Anyone entering the Knesset must have their temperature taken. No visitors are allowed into the building.
The rules of the Knesset Director General say that social distancing must be practiced at all times in the buildings. Where necessary, Perspex partitions have added in smaller rooms. Cleaning fluid dispensers have also been placed around the building. All staff are required to wear masks in the Knesset, unless they are alone in their office. There is an expectation that MKs wear masks as well, although there is no ability to formally obligate them to do so.
During the COVID-19 emergency, Italy’s Chamber of Deputies will limit the work of the Plenary to the consideration of urgent non-deferrable bills, with particular regard to bills for the enactment into law of pending decree laws. The Chamber will also meet in plenary session in case of parliamentary questions requiring an immediate reply or of urgent interpellations. The purpose of these arrangements is to maintain constant dialogue with the Government on the COVID-19 emergency and to enable the Government to keep Parliament apprised of developments, including through urgent information updates and reports.
The activities of Committees and other parliamentary bodies have also been restricted to consideration of urgent non-deferrable acts. These include bills related to items in the Order of Business of the House or for which a Committee is acting in a law-making capacity; and for purposes of parliamentary scrutiny or to issue opinions on Government legislative proposals that need to be expedited without delay. Less formal committee meetings are held remotely, but must always take place in the presence of the Chair, or Deputy Chair of the Committee, and the Clerk (parliamentary official) to the Committee.
The Italian Senate has put in place measures to comply with social distancing requirements. Meetings are held in larger meeting and conference rooms and are being scheduled so as to leave time between meetings for the necessary sanitation of the conference rooms. For roll calls, Senators access the floor in smaller groups in alphabetical order. Facemasks and gloves have been distributed to Senators and all staff. Workplaces are sanitized constantly; everyone accessing the Senate is required to disinfect their hands and have their temperature measured; hand sanitizer gel dispensers are available everywhere.
In cooperation with the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, the Senate has been equipped to perform nose and throat swab tests on Senators and staff showing even a minimum risk of testing positive to the virus.
Many members of staff are working remotely with only key staff whose physical presence is essential to keep the Senate open working on the premises.
Staff with children under the age of 16 may take parental leave while schools are closed.
Japan (25 June 2020)
The latest session of the National Diet of Japan ended on 17 June. With decisions made at the end of the session by the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors respectively, committees at each House have been continuing with their considerations while not in session as stipulated by the Diet Law, with various protective measures in place against COVID-19 as when the Diet was in session.
Kuwait (17 April 2020)
On the 24 March 2020, the National Assembly of Kuwait held a normal sitting to discuss the emergency legislation needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Meetings have been limited.
Latvia (28 May 2020)
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parliament of Latvia (the Saeima) has held a number of extraordinary meetings and has taken urgent decisions to alleviate the consequences of the pandemic. It declared a state of emergency from 12 March until 14 April and designated the Ministry of Health the authority responsible for the coordination of activities during the emergency. The state of emergency has since been extended to 12 May.
Sittings are held in eight separate parliamentary premises to ensure social distancing.
The following are some of the pandemic-related restrictive measures: shutdown of educational establishments and introduction of remote teaching; provision of childcare where needed; prohibition of events and gatherings; limitation of opening hours of non-essential services; cancellation of international passenger transport and border crossings except for transport organized by State aircraft and military transport.
A special law was adopted on support mechanisms and financial support to affected industries. Among others, the law provides that: the Government will set the criteria and procedures when applying for state aid; tax extensions and compensation not subject to personal income tax and state social security contributions to laid-off employees are granted; economic operators are freed of advance payments of personal income tax for 2020; and overpaid VAT from 1 April to 31 December 2020 will be refunded; local governments may review real estate tax and extend tax payment deadlines in 2020.
They also include additional social support for families with children; and a broader range of people eligible for unemployment benefits during the crisis. The state police have the right to search for and forcibly transfer to quarantine or their actual residence both people with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and those defined by the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as contacts of coronavirus-infected individuals.
At the sitting of 26 May, the Saeima began using a new e-Saeima platform, developed for the Parliament, that allows plenary sittings to be held remotely, with MPs debating and voting on items in the plenary agenda in real time. Although MPs used the tool from different rooms in the Parliament building during the sitting, it is set up to allow them to participate from outside the building.
The e-Saeima platform can be accessed through a dedicated website, using e-signatures. The interface displays the plenary agenda and the list of MPs participating in the debate. Upon activation of the voting mode, MPs have 30 seconds to vote through one of three buttons: “for”, “against”, and “abstain”. During this time, MPs may also change their vote. When the voting is over, the results are displayed on the screen according to the seating plan of the Plenary Chamber.
Live information about the sitting, including the progress of the consideration of items, the list of speakers and voting results, is available online on the Saeima website. The work of the Saeima remains open to the public, and the remote sitting can be followed live on the Saeima website and the Parliament’s Facebook account. If the e-Saeima is successful, it could be used for regular plenary sittings in the future with MPs working on the Saeima premises.
Liechtenstein (23 April 2020)
The parliament in Liechtenstein is known as the "Landtag". Together with the Prince, the 25 Members of Parliament form the country's legislative authority. The parliament, representing the people, and the Princely House, represented by the Prince, are the legislative bodies in Liechtenstein. The Landtag has a quorum if at least two thirds of its statutory 25 members are present.
Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein are bound together in friendship through a dense network of treaties including the Customs Treaty of 1923, which made Liechtenstein part of the Swiss economic area. Close coordination with Switzerland is generally considered useful and important. In order to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Liechtenstein and to protect the population and health care, the Government has already decided on far-reaching measures and has adapted them in line with Switzerland, taking into account current developments, situational adjustment.
Due to hygiene regulations during the crisis, the Landtag session will take place in the Vaduzer Saal and not, as usual, in the Landtag building. At present, the committees and delegations meet only to discuss matters defined as "urgent". Wherever possible, Members of Parliament exchange information by telecommunications. Virtual meetings take place via Zoom software.
Seimas (Parliament) of Lithuania meetings have been limited.
The Chamber of Deputies of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has reduced its meetings. They are taking place in the premises of the parliament or remotely. Joint committee meetings will not be held until further notice. Remote meetings (video-conferencing) are regulated internally by the Chamber of Deputies. Voting during remote meetings is done by roll call.
The Chamber of Deputies uses Cisco Webex to organize remote meetings of parliamentary committees. Documents are transmitted in the usual manner – through an intranet portal. Remote meeting software is hosted by an external service provider and are cloud based.
The Parliament is currently not in session.
Malaysia (2 June 2020)
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Parliament has adopted several measures in response to the current pandemic. These include screening Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, parliamentary staff and media personnel for COVID-19.
To minimize the risk of infection, the Parliament has also reduced the number of staff and invitees during the sitting. Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, MPs are seated a chair apart.
The Parliament has also provided hand sanitizers and masks, practiced social distancing and the Parliament is frequently cleaned. Three thermal image cameras have been in addition to the mandatory temperature check at the main entrance and at several check points throughout the Parliament complex.
Despite measures that restrict travel and non-essential outings, the People’s Majlis is continuing with its sittings via web conferencing, with members remotely joining the parliamentary sessions from their homes. The first online sitting was held on 30 March and was attended by 71 MPs out of 87. The MPs debated a motion on the Government’s proposed financial support programme as the country prepares for the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malta (30 April 2020)
The Maltese Parliament has introduced a number of measures to ensure a safe environment for its members and staff. These measures include: the suspension of visits and extra-parliamentary activities in the Parliament building – except for plenary and committee sessions participants and members of the media; health screening, provision of hand sanitizers, disinfection of the Parliament building; cancellation of all official travel until further notice; rearrangement of seating to ensure social distancing; teleworking for non-critical staff and introduction of flexible work arrangements. Discussion on introducing additional social distancing measures and electronic video-conferencing platforms is underway.
Parliament has adopted a number of urgent bills and resolutions on the COVID-19 crisis such as: the Public Health (Amendment) Bill clarifying the powers of the Superintendent of Health to issue orders on the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases; the Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2002 (Amendment) Bill on additional funds required due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the Legal and Other Time Periods (Suspension and Interruption) Bill empowering the Minister of Justice to issue regulations pursuant to the orders on the closure of premises issued by the Superintendent of Public Health; a resolution on increasing the amount of government treasury bills to be issued to fund government expenditure related to the COVID-19 pandemic; and a bill amending the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal Act on the use of electronic means for filing of appeals and holding Tribunal sittings is forthcoming.
The Parliament rose on 1 April and resumed work on 20 April.
Mexico (8 May 2020)
On 12 March the Chamber of Deputies, through its Executive Committee, announced to its Assembly a series of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect both legislators and staff. As the government health authorities imposed a stay-at-home rule, the Chamber of Deputies suspended its plenary sessions from 20 March until further notice. However, meetings can be convened if a legislative decision on the COVID-19 pandemic is required.
The Governing Bodies of the Chamber of Deputies (the Executive Committee and the Political Coordination Board) agreed to continue with their normal activity to evaluate the situation in the country day by day so as to make decisions in a timely manner. During the Chamber’s recess, deputies will be able to continue to table bills and non-legislative proposals.
While legislative committees were requested to continue their activities, giving priority to work on legislative opinions, the Executive Committee decreed the suspension of all legal deadlines during this health contingency and granted legal protection to all procedures pending a resolution by the Chamber of Deputies or its bodies.
Committees have been authorized to meet virtually to advance deliberations. The Executive Committee also decreed the suspension of all legal deadlines during this health contingency and granted legal protection to all procedures pending a resolution by the Chamber of Deputies or its bodies.
The Political Coordination Board and the Speaker have held hearings with representatives of the country's productive sectors to find ways of helping economic recovery. Regarding government oversight, there have been meetings with several ministers.
A working group headed by the Speaker of the Chamber with female deputies representing all parliamentary groups and presidents of committees such as the Gender Equity and Justice committees, have been meeting weekly. The group ensures that measures taken by the Government and the Congress during the pandemic are defined and implemented with a gender perspective. The group also addresses the problems women and girls are facing because of the health emergency.
The IPU President, Mexican MP Gabriela Cuevas Barron, called attention to the high proportion of women in the health sector and to the specific situation of women in unpaid or underpaid jobs, demanding investments in gender parity in the COVID-19 response.
Committees are continuing to work. Forum meetings, hearings and open parliament sessions have been held online on bills under discussion, such as the forum on femicides and the initiative on budgetary powers of the Chamber in times of economic emergency.
The Chamber of Deputies is using the media to disseminate useful information for citizens on how to prevent and treat the disease.
The Chamber is making an institutional donation that will help to buy protection equipment for health personnel. In addition to this, many deputies have donated their salary to help to address the health emergency and the economic crisis.
Monaco (28 April 2020)
Given the gravity of the current crisis, MPs from the National Council have unanimously agreed to go ahead and hold meetings that are a mix of virtual and physical, respecting social distancing.
MPs can vote with a show of hands or a verbal nominal vote. The video of the session provides a record of the session.
The National Council uses Cisco’s Webex Meetings for videoconferencing.
The State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia held the opening of its spring session on 6 April 2020 using electronic technology for the first time. Members of parliament attended the session in five chambers, seated at pre-assigned desks at a distance of at least 1.5 metres, using intramural TV conferencing system inside the parliament building. All committee and open hearings will also be organized in these chambers.
In its first hearing, the Standing Committee on State Structure considered amendments to the law on the parliamentary procedures with provisions for the legal grounds for online committee and plenary hearings. These include:
- organizing plenary and committee hearings using electronic meeting software;
- allowing voting through show of hands or written text messages in the public discussion area of the electronic meeting software, with the results being presented by the chair;
- using sanctions in the case of a breach of procedure. For example, if an MP violates the procedure more than once, the Chair will revoke the MP’s right to ask questions, express opinions or participate in the hearings on the issue, post to the public area of the software for three hours or the duration of that day’s session.
The Speaker also approved an ordinance to temporarily allow mass media representatives to work in the parliament building, with special media zones set up for journalists.
Montenegro (7 July 2020)
The Parliament is holding a combination of remote and face-to-face meetings. Over the past two months, the Parliament continued to meet physically, but with appropriate social distancing and medical preventive measures in place in all parliamentary rooms. There were fewer parliamentarians present in the plenary room, and all necessary medical preventive measures were taken, including disinfection, and wearing protective face masks and gloves. The Parliament building is appropriately disinfected.
The first plenary session was organized on 22 April, and the first committee meetings on 16 April. Plenary sessions have taken place with MPs physically present with appropriate social distancing measures. Committee meetings have been organized with the combination of physical presence of the MPs and participation via an online platform.
Most of the parliamentary staff is working remotely, with physical presence when necessary.
Zoom and Cisco Webex are used for remote meetings, hosted by the Parliament of Montenegro.
Morocco (23 April 2020)
The Parliament of Morocco unanimously adopted a decree setting out provisions to address the state of health emergency, including authorizing preventive measures, in line with Article 21 of the Constitution, to ensure the safety of the population while safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms. The decree also brought in an appropriate legal framework to govern the nationwide measures resulting from the health emergency.
MPs called upon the Government to support the social groups worst affected by the emergency as well as stimulating the economy. They appealed for the law to be enforced firmly but without infringing citizens’ rights and physical integrity.
Members of both houses applauded the royal initiative to set up a fund to manage the crisis, and donated a month of their salaries to the fund. Parliamentary staff of both houses likewise contributed part of their salaries to the fund.
To limit the risk of infection and observe social distancing while keeping Parliament functioning, the secretaries general of both houses reduced the staff on site to a core group carrying out essential duties, while others are teleworking. A communication and follow-up cell was set up to raise staff awareness of hygiene measures to put in place in parliament.
Myanmar (23 April 2020)
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union) concluded its plenary session on 26 March 2020. No committee meetings are being held and parliamentary staff are working from home on a rotational basis, with 50 per cent working in the building at a time.
MPs donated part of their allowance to the National-Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Namibia (21 July 2020)
The National Assembly has been meeting virtually for the first time in its history, in compliance with emergency regulations that limit the number of lawmakers present in the chamber. The Assembly started its session on 24 March but had to stop because of the pandemic. It resumed on 26 May until 8 July. The National Assembly is currently in recess.
Meetings are taking place with 50 members present in the chamber, which ensures a quorum of voting members. Members who were not physically present were connected via an online video link in separate meeting rooms in the parliament building. The National Assembly has installed hand sanitizer dispensers, the temperature of people in the buildings is being taken, and the wearing of masks is obligatory.
The tabling of, and debates on, the Appropriation Bill (the national budget), as well as the State of the Nation Address by President Hage Geingob, were held virtually and livestreamed on social media.
To boost the National Assembly’s livestreaming services on social media platforms, these services will be expanded to multiple online spaces, including the Parliament’s website, with translation into indigenous languages. The audio files could then be used by radio stations to broadcast to the electorate, in keeping with the parliament’s commitment to reach the grassroots. The Parliament’s Facebook page now reaches over 70,000 users daily (up from 1,000 before the lockdown) partly due to the livestreaming.
The largest conference hall at the National Assembly and the chamber will be turned into fully-fledged virtual centres.
According to the Speaker Peter Katjavivi—an ardent proponent of moving towards an e-parliament—the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for re-inventing the future, and has helped fast-track the transformation of the Namibian parliament into a paperless institution.
Parliamentary standing committees have not yet been constituted since the swearing in of new members has been delayed due to the pandemic and other internal issues.
However, parliamentary committees of the National Council are meeting with social distancing and other measures strictly observed.
Nepal (21 April 2020)
The plenaries of both the Houses of the Federal Parliament have been adjourned due to the nation-wide lockdown since 24 March.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chairperson of the National Assembly released statements asking citizens to follow lockdown procedures and take adequate safety measures.
The Parliament has adopted social distancing and functions with a minimum number of staff. Watch a video produced by the Federal Parliament Secretariat of Nepal on the Parliament conducting its business during the pandemic.
MPs have also contributed between two weeks to two months of their salaries to fund the fight against COVID-19.
Netherlands (16 July 2020)
The Tweede Kamer, the Dutch House of Representatives, continues to scrutinise the work of Government with due regard for the health and safety of everyone working in the House. During the May recess, the House will continue to debate measures to fight the coronavirus. More information here
The Tweede Kamer has also published a video on its current working practices.
The Senate building was closed on 13 March by the President, after consulting the two vice presidents and all group presidents.
The first physical meeting was the plenary session of the Senate held in the Assembly Hall on 7 April 2020. Until then, committee meetings were held digitally for three weeks. In accordance with the Dutch government’s COVID-19 measures, the Hall could only hold the President and 14 MPs, three government representatives, the Secretary General and a few staff.
Since the President and the other Members wanted to be able to convene in full when needed, the President and the Secretary General asked the Dutch government for the use of the Hall of Knights across the square from the Senate building. The Hall could hold 75 people, which is the number of MPs in the Dutch Senate. The Hall of Knights, normally used for special meetings such as the annual Prince's Day at the state opening of Parliament, was transformed into an Assembly Hall for the weekly meetings of the Senate. On 12 May, the Senate convened at the Hall for the first time. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions still in place, not all 75 Members were present.
New Zealand (25 August 2020)
Parliament is meeting for unusual sitting hours on 18 and 19 August, and 25 and 26 August, for oral questions, general business, ministerial statements, and any Government notices of motion.
In light of recent events, the Business Committee (a special select committee which arranges how Parliament is run) has determined that proxy votes can be used for the entirety of a party’s membership in the House. This means that not all members need to attend, so the members who are present can observe social distancing in the Chamber.
Preparations have been made for a growing number of staff and committees to work remotely. At its 25 March sitting with a limited number of MPs, Parliament received and debated a formal epidemic notice from the Prime Minister; agreed to establish an Epidemic Response Committee with government and opposition Members of Parliament to scrutinize government actions; and passed a bill to allow the Government to access the funding it needs.
The only voting is in committees, where each member casts an individual voice vote remotely. Regarding software, Zoom (cloud based) is used for remote meetings and in-house document management software (SharePoint and Objective) are used for committee documents meaning that all documents are held and managed on internal servers.
The Parliament has also legislation in place to help it deal with the pandemic, including the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, which gives the government the powers to modify the application of laws to respond to epidemics; and the Health Act 1956, allowing for the management of quarantinable diseases. The Parliament at its 25 March session also passed the COVID-19 Response (Taxation and Social Assistance Urgent Measures) Bill; the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill; and the Imprest Supply (Third for 2019/20) Bill. The Epidemic Response Committee has eleven members, four of whom are women (this is roughly in line with the proportionality of our Parliament which sits at 40.8 per cent women MPs).
Niger (17 April 2020)
The Parliament of Niger is observing social distancing, with 45 MPs out of 171 present in the building. The Parliament does not have a system of teleworking in place, but the Parliament’s IT service can provide videoconferencing.
Nigeria (16 July 2020)
The Parliament of Nigeria has published a paper, Parliaments and Pandemic: Shifts in Citizen Participation and Inclusion—A Prognosis on Nigeria Post-COVID-19. Although parliaments continued to function during lockdown, citizens’ participation in legislation was not adequately addressed, especially in Nigeria, with the space for the inclusion of citizens either minimally open or entirely closed. This brief explains how the National Assembly anticipated and reacted to the pandemic and how the some of the changes made in its functioning might continue into the post-pandemic world.
The Norwegian Parliament (the Storting) introduced a number of measures which will be in place until end of April. These measures include: the number of MPs at plenary meetings and during voting is reduced to 87 from 102; plenary will take decisions only on urgent issues identified by the presidency following consultations with leaders of party groups in Parliament; some rules of procedure are temporarily suspended (deadlines, physical presence in Committee meetings with priority given to tele/video conferencing); reduced committee workload (priority given to urgent cases and bills); cancellation of international and domestic committee members travel. The Storting also established a coronavirus special committee.
On 21 March, Parliament adopted the Enabling Act authorizing Government to make decisions which, according to the Constitution, must be taken in Parliament. The aim is to enable Government to take measures to limit the disruption of the normal functioning of society and mitigate the negative consequences of the pandemic for the population and on the economy. The Act is valid for a month but can also be repealed by the Storting at any given time.
As part of its coronavirus regime, the Norwegian authorities also introduced a number of restrictions and measures which will be in place until mid-April. Also, at the Government’s proposal, Parliament agreed on a set of economic and social measures to alleviate the consequences of the pandemic. Updated information can be obtained from the homepages of the Norwegian Government and Norwegian Directorate of Health.
The software used for committee meetings is Microsoft Office 365 / Teams or Microsoft Skype for Business. Office 365 / Sharepoint Online / Word are used for the provision and tracking of documents and amendments. Skype for Business is hosted internally and Teams is hosted on Microsoft’s cloud services.
The National Assembly of Panama is looking to hold plenary and committee sessions remotely. Eighty per cent of the staff, people with chronic infections, and management are working from home. Visits to the Assembly have been restricted. Everyone entering the Assembly building has their temperature taken, and fumigation and cleaning is carried out constantly.
Paraguay (11 May 2020)
The Congress of Paraguay is duly following the recommendations issued by the WHO and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Paraguay. The measures taken include: a reduction in the number of officials in the premises of the Congress; prohibition of access to visitors; measurement of temperature at entry gates; hand sanitizing of all persons entering the building; and holding of virtual press conferences.
The Paraguayan Parliament modified its rules to allow sessions to be held remotely. Both Houses of Parliament—the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies—will be holding sessions using Zoom. Some sessions are being held in the Parliament building to deal with urgent matters, using large rooms with fewer MPs, so they can sit two metres away from each other.
Given the importance of the work of the legislature, members of parliament are testing the use of digital technologies to be able to continue with their work. Their focus is on the adequacy and legality of electronic platforms for remote work. The Senate held sessions with a few MPs during this period in the Hall of the Deputies, which is bigger so people can sit two metres apart from each other.
The Chamber of Deputies is holding plenary and committee meetings digitally. A session was held in the Bicameral Salon, with a few MPs sitting apart from each other.
The Government has extended the quarantine to 19 April, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies will decide when to convene a session with legislators.
In the light of the crisis, Congress has cancelled a number of programmes thus reducing its budget. The funds saved are being redirected to the Ministry of Health for its fight against the pandemic.
Parlatino (17 April 2020)
Parlatino (the Latin American Parliament) has reallocated funds to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the region, and modified methods of working through social distancing and teleworking. The Board met on 19 March to address issues regarding the pandemic as well as possible socioeconomic scenarios and their repercussions at the regional and global levels. Learn more about what the member parliaments are doing (in Spanish).
Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) (5 June 2020)
Acting as the principal parliamentary forum in the Euro Mediterranean and Gulf regions, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) has contributed to consultations with key partners to deal with the effects of the pandemic, such as WHO, the United Nations and UNHCR.
As the recovery phase has started for the majority of countries in the region, PAM is, in cooperation with key regional and international players, providing a platform to disseminate best practices so countries can move towards a rapid economic recovery. In this context, PAM is contributing to two meetings on small and medium enterprises, organized with governments and international organizations.
PAM has also called on its Member States to adhere to the call for a global ceasefire by the UN Secretary-General and to contribute to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, working with migrants, regardless of status, refugees and displaced persons in an effort to mitigate the pandemic.
Philippines (18 May 2020)
The Philippines House of Representatives has continued to sit, using a combination of remote and face-to-face meetings since 23 March to pass legislation to give the government the necessary tools to fight COVID-19. A Defeat COVID-19 Committee has been set up, and meets by videoconference at least twice a week.
For the plenary session on 4 May, a maximum of 25 MPs were allowed to be physically present in the Session Hall. Other MPs attended by videoconference. Committee hearings are also being held by videoconference. Most of the hearings are streamed live on Facebook and YouTube.
The Parliament has prepared guidelines to allow attendance and voting through videoconference and other online technologies. Voting is allowed through telephone, text, messaging apps and videoconference tools.
The Parliament uses the Zoom Cloud meeting app and the Viber messaging app. An official Gmail account is used for sending documents.
Poland (14 May 2020)
The Polish Sejm will allow parliamentarians to vote remotely. The Sejm statute does not permit holding sessions online, so the Presidium passed a resolution to change the statute specifically for COVID-19. Three other extraordinary states stipulated in the Constitution were also added: a state of natural disaster, martial law, and a state of emergency.
The subjects of deliberations of the Senate and Senate committees are limited mainly to matters related to Covid-19. Meetings are held in a mixed system. Some senators are in the meeting room, others in two other rooms in the Senate building, and others are taking part in the meeting remotely from home.
Each deputy will receive a video clip showing how to connect to the remote session, and their identity will be authenticated via text messages. Those staying at home will be able to ask questions and express their opinions. The session will be beamed from two wall screens in the plenary room.
The regulations regarding the manner of conducting plenary meetings and committee meeting of the Senate have not been changed.
Portugal (21 April 2020)
The Parliament’s plenary sessions meet with a minimum attendance quorum of one fifth of the total number of MPs, reflecting the proportion of the Parliamentary Groups. Plenary deliberations are taken in the presence of more than half of the Members, so that at least 116 Members must be present to vote. Remote voting in plenary sessions is not possible.
Parliamentary Committees decide to meet when necessary with some meetings by videoconference, using Skype.
The Shura Council presented a set of recommendations and suggestions to the Government to fight more effectively against the pandemic.
The Shura Council has sterilised all its offices and meeting rooms and implemented social distancing measures. It has also limited the number of staff working in the building and imposed remote-working for non-essential staff.
Republic of Korea (18 September 2020)
On 26 February, amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, the National Assembly passed three laws for a nationwide response to the novel virus. The three laws comprise of amendments on the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act, Quarantine Act, and Medical Service Act. The National Assembly passed all three amendments without a single dissenting vote.
The amendments grant the government and health authorities to take necessary measures to prevent a further spread of the virus. For example, a new amendment to the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act allows the government to criminally prosecute suspected patients who refuse to be tested and increases the potential penalty for violating quarantine regulations to a maximum of a year of imprisonment or a fine of approximately USD 1,000. All in all, the new amendments have increased the capacity of the Korean government and health-related authorities to manage and respond to the spread of COVID-19.
Following the above three amendments aimed at tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, on 17 March, the National Assembly passed a supplementary budget bill of about KRW 11 trillion (approx. USD 10 billion) to help the government handle the economic impact caused by COVID-19. On 29 April, the National Assembly passed a second supplementary budget bill of about KRW 12 trillion (approx. USD 11 billion) to establish an emergency disaster relief fund which gave everyone, regardless of income, a chance to apply for financial assistance according to their circumstances. On 3 July, the National Assembly passed a third supplementary budget bill of about KRW 35 trillion (approx. USD 29 billion) to quickly overcome the economic crisis and prepare for the post COVID-19 era. This is the first time since 1972 that the National Assembly passed three supplementary budgets bills within in a year.
Due to the recent rise in the COVID-19 cases and implementation of stricter social distancing level, an increase in economic impact is also likely to follow. With regard to this, a fourth supplementary budget bill is now under consideration.
In order to convene the regular session on 1 September, the National Assembly started to discuss the development of a remote conference system as well as thorough quarantine such as hygiene screens (transparent plastic dividers) in the meeting rooms and a thermal image camera at the entrance.
All National Assembly employees are strongly encouraged to work at home up to two or three days a week, depending on nature and urgency of their work to minimize contact among employees in office. Some departments have also adopted flexible working hours.
Republic of Moldova
In keeping with the constitution, the Moldovan Parliament declared a state of emergency from 17 March to 15 May 2020. Under this regime, the Commission for Exceptional Situations can issue enforceable directives on measures aimed at combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Parliament issued several internal decisions and directives on the mobilization and maximum individual responsibility of MPs and parliamentary staff; suspension of public activities on the premises of the Parliament; cancellation of business trips of MPs and staff; remote work for the Parliament's Secretariat staff; daily in-house presence of employees; work of advisers in the secretariats of standing parliamentary committees; and prophylactic measures.
Parliament approved a COVID-19 protection and prevention plan introducing measures such as the reorganization of accesses to offices, canteens, common rooms; restriction of number of people and visitors entering the building; social distancing; and restriction of access to staff with coronavirus symptoms. The Speaker issued a directive regulating the process of examining petitions and the application of mandatory e-signatures on documents issued during this process. The General Directorate for Information Technologies and Communications ensures employees’ access to the Integrated Information System of Parliament enabling them to work remotely.
The Parliament of Romania is holding the plenary and committee meetings remotely. The Standing Orders of the Senate have been amended to provide for the holding of remote meetings. According to the amendments, in exceptional situations – including epidemics, pandemics, extreme natural phenomena, acts of terrorism – when parliamentarians cannot be present in the premises of the Senate, meetings of the Standing Bureau, the Committee of Leaders of Parliamentary Groups, the Standing Committees, as well as the plenary sittings of the Senate are to be held through electronic means. Remote plenary sittings are broadcast live on the Senate's webpage. Voting in plenary sittings is done over the phone by roll call.
The Great and General Council of San Marino plenary and committees are not holding meetings. The Captains Regent’s investiture ceremony on 1 April will be carried out with a reduced participation of guests.
Senegal (21 July 2020)
The National Assembly has reduced its meetings. However, the legislative work of the parliamentary committees continues, but with a reduced number of MPs. The Assembly is also holding plenary sessions with fewer MPs attending.
On 1 April, the Assembly adopted a draft law allowing the President to take relevant legal measures to deal with COVID-19 and to authorize the extension of the state of emergency. The law would facilitate taking the necessary measures to guarantee the optimal functioning of the state. These include economic, budgetary, financial, legal, security and health measures.
Serbia (29 April 2020)
The Rules of Procedure do not allow for remote working. However, most employees of the National Assembly are working from home, except for those whose presence is important for the functioning of the National Assembly.
A plenary session was held on 28 April 2020 with the physical participation of all MPs.
All necessary medical preventive measures were taken. These measures include passing through a security metal detector and X-ray screening machine, disinfecting and taking temperature of people entering the building, and wearing protective face masks and gloves. The Parliament building was appropriately disinfected.
Additional measures have also been taken in the Plenary Hall, including specially designed protective plexiglass partitions for each MP’s seat.
The meeting of the Committee on Administrative, Budgetary, Mandate and Immunity Issues on 23 April 2020 with physical presence of Committee members and parliamentary staff, also applied the prescribed protective medical measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Seychelles (17 April 2020)
The Parliament of the Seychelles has adopted precautionary measures to mitigate the spread of COVID 19 on its premises. All visits and appointment with Leaders and Members of Parliament at the precinct have been cancelled. Committee meetings have been limited to those relating to Assembly matters such as the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and the Assembly Business Committee.
Parliament is considered as an essential service but however meets to consider emergency matters only. The Parliament practices social distancing including in the chamber. A thorough daily sanitation of staff, MPs and officials is carried on the premises with hand sanitizers available in strategic locations. The premises are also disinfected on a daily basis.
The Secretariat has developed a Business Continuity Plan for COVID 19 and a Stay At Home Policy. Staff work on a rotational basis during sittings but those who are considered as high risk remain at home.
During non-sitting days, staff work from home and have access to WiFi and laptops provided by the Secretariat. Communication is carried out through email and Whats App groups for staff and Members.
Sierra Leone (17 April 2020)
The Sierra Leone Parliament is in recess for almost a month to decongest the house. Members of Parliament are visiting their constituencies to sensitize people on the dangers of the ongoing pandemic and instructing them on precautionary measures to prevent infection. The administrative section in every department has been divided into three groups who will work on shifts for three weeks, so that about 35 per cent will work in the office working and 65 per cent will work from home.
Slovakia (28 April 2020)
The Constituent Session of the Parliament took place on 20 March 2020. The Parliament held six plenary sessions in March and April. The number of MPs and/or quorum has not been reduced, and there are no provisions for videoconferences or on-line voting.
Plenary sessions and committee meetings are held without the presence of media and public. MPs and parliamentary employees have to wear face masks and rubber gloves, and are required to regularly disinfect their hands (especially when entering the Plenary Hall). Since 12 March 2020, access to parliamentary buildings has been restricted – only MPs, parliamentary employees and other eligible persons (such as government officials) are allowed to enter. People entering the parliamentary building have their temperature taken. Contact areas in the parliamentary buildings are regularly disinfected.
Plenary sessions are streamed online as usual. Press conferences are held in front of the parliamentary building.
During the plenary sessions, draft laws were adopted under fast-track legislative procedure and were focused on preventive, social and economic measures mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.
Slovenia (28 April 2020)
Since 16 March, the National Assembly is only holding extraordinary sessions and most committee meetings have been postponed. Options for holding committee meetings using video conference are being investigated.
Most employees of the National Assembly are working remotely, with the exception of core staff and those needed for the smooth running of Parliament.
South Africa (29 April 2020)
The Parliament of South Africa has amended rules to enable both Houses—the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces—and the committees to operate remotely. Guidelines for virtual meetings have also been created to help MPs set up their gadgets or hardware to connect to these meetings.
Committees from both Houses have been meeting remotely since MPs concluded their constituency work programme on 17 April. Priority has been given to committees conducting oversight of government's COVID-19 response and its implementation of social distancing restrictions under the National State of Disaster Act. These committees have been meeting virtually since last week, mostly through the MS Teams platform. Virtual Meetings of committee are also broadcast live on Parliament TV Channel, YouTube and social media platforms such as Twitter.
Other online platforms will be employed as Parliament is expected to expand its programme, which include the virtual plenary sitting of the National Council of Provinces to process the Division of Revenue Bill, following its adoption by the National Assembly. The Bill enables distribution of funds to all spheres of government, part of which should be used to fight the pandemic. The Parliament will further deepen use creative technologies to ensure public's participation is enhanced even during the prevailing period of social distancing.
The Cortes (Parliament) of Spain held its plenary during the last week of March. Video-conferencing and remote voting was put in place for deputies who could not attend. Remote voting is restricted and was already regulated for circumstances such as pregnancy, maternity or paternity leave or serious illness. Since the imposition of the restrictive measures two plenary sittings took place and the committee on health also met.
Parliamentary technical and political management bodies work remotely (videoconferencing, telematic voting, etc.) as much as possible. Lessons learned from this experience will be used to improve the capacity of the Congress of Deputies to act in the current and future similar situations.
The Riksdag (Parliament) of Sweden is holding plenary and committee meetings as normal. But party group leaders have agreed that, in the period from 16 to 30 March, the number of MPs required to vote is just 55 (out of 349). This change to working procedures was made primarily to ensure that the Riksdag could fulfill its tasks even if a larger number of MPs were prevented from participating in parliamentary work. In addition, the number of deputies sitting on parliamentary committees has been increased so that there will always be deputies to step in.
The Offices of both chambers (the National Council and the Council of States) of the Federal Assembly have convened an extraordinary session of a week, starting from 4 May, devoted to the coronavirus crisis. It will be held at the Bern Expo exhibition centre instead of in the Federal Palace to meet the rules of hygiene and distancing decreed by the Federal Council. The extraordinary session was requested by the Federal Council and by 32 members of the Council of the States (at least one quarter of the members of either Council is needed according to the Swiss Constitution and the Parliament Act).
The Swiss Constitution states that the majority of each Council’s members must be present in order to take decisions. Committee meetings cannot be held with a reduced number of members either, but quorum is not required and the members can be replaced by another member of their parliamentary group. During the May-June session, the Committees and Delegations will only meet to deliberate on matters defined as "urgent". Parliamentary Services staff need to telecommute wherever possible.
In order to deal with disruption to public order or internal or external security that has arisen or is imminent, such as the coronavirus crisis, the Federal Council or the Federal Assembly may issue emergency ordinances or take emergency decisions. The emergency ordinances of the Federal Council need to be approved by the Federal Assembly or they will cease to be in force after six months. The emergency ordinances of the Federal Assembly are preferred over those of the Federal Council since they have greater democratic legitimacy and can also guarantee to the Federal Assembly the possibility of monitoring and correcting the measures taken by the Federal Council. For the moment, the Federal Assembly’s Finance Delegation has approved all the urgent funds requested by the Federal Council to combat the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the economy.
Thailand (16 July 2020)
On 26 March, while the National Assembly of Thailand was under prorogation, a national state of emergency was declared by the Government to control the spread of COVID-19, requiring the National Assembly to adjust its work process of the operation as well as modify its procedures in response to the public health concern at that time.
To begin with, all meetings of parliamentary committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate were held only if strictly needed and with a minimum number of participants, except for ad-hoc committees tasked to work within a fixed time frame.
Before the end of the recess of the legislative branch, several standing committees of both Houses switched to virtual meetings using remote platforms such as Cisco Webex Meeting, Zoom Cloud Meeting and LINE application. Meanwhile, over 50 per cent of parliamentary staff had been allowed to work from home between 25 March and 15 May, depending on the nature of their jobs.
The new legislative session began on 22 May. Necessary measures have been introduced such as social distancing, working with a minimum number of MPs, and redesigning appropriate seating arrangements for MPs attending plenary sessions. Sessions had to end before 8:00 pm to comply with the curfew in place since 3 April.
MPs, parliamentary staff, the press, and visitors entering the Parliament buildings are required to wear face masks and have their body temperatures checked before entering. Thermal scanners, infrared thermometers and UV disinfection tunnels have been set up at all entrances, with a special medical team monitoring the screening process. Anyone with a high temperature is immediately sent to the COVID-19 specialized hospitals for further examination.
Although tours and other non-essential visits are temporarily suspended, Thai citizens who come for petitions are still welcomed. A smartphone-based special application was introduced to help track people in and out of the parliamentary buildings. To ensure that all visitors follow procedures, QR codes are posted at all entrances. Areas such as elevators, escalators, toilets, and the cafeteria, as well as furniture and equipment, are sanitized by alcohol-based spray or disinfecting wipes twice a day. Hand sanitizers are also provided throughout the parliamentary buildings.
The House of Representatives is currently modifying its own regulations and procedures to provide a legal basis for remote working and to allow its standing committees and other bodies to sit virtually, in line with the latest Royal ordinance (government decree) on teleconference issued on 19 April. The new teleconference decree, however, does not applied to parliamentary plenary session.
On 2 June, the National Assembly endorsed three Emergency Decrees to alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, allowing relevant authorities to provide special allowance to those affected by the pandemic, stabilizing the financial system, and rehabilitating the economy. The House of Representatives is also discussing forming an ad hoc committee to oversee the COVID-19 recovery programmes by the Government. An Emergency Decree on electronic meetings was also approved by the National Assembly recently, enabling both the public and private sector to convene board meetings or shareholders meetings using digital medias.
The Parliament debated a resolution on 23 March tabled by the three biggest parliamentary groupings setting out urgent measures to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and protect citizens’ rights, essential services and the supply of goods, and outlining proportionate responses to various specific scenarios.
The recommended measures are intended to guarantee supplies of food, fuel and medical products, including by simplifying customs procedures, regulate prices and keep open air connections to bring in health workers and send out coronavirus tests to laboratories abroad.
Parliament recommends exceptional and temporary legislative, administrative and other measures to respond to the health emergency, including purchasing equipment and temporarily hiring additional personnel. The resolution also recommends social protection measures and support for the worst-hit companies, such as small businesses and street vendors.
The resolution calls on the Government to act in accordance with WHO guidelines on quarantine and isolation, step up prevention and awareness-raising measures through all platforms and in collaboration with the local authorities and the Church, as well as intensifying training for health sector staff.
The Parliament of Timor-Leste, with UNDP, has produced a public health video about COVID-19 and how to stay safe. Most of the speakers are parliamentarians. Watch the video.
The Assembly of People’s Representatives adopted on 26 March a resolution setting out six exceptional temporary measures to ensure the continuity of Parliament’s work during the COVID-19 health crisis and ensuing confinement:
- The Assembly Bureau is empowered to set exceptional deadlines to accelerate the examination of urgent bills related to managing the crisis.
- Plenary parliamentary sessions will be held on time and with no need for a quorum.
- The Assembly Bureau may decide to organize remote plenary sessions with electronic voting using a special application, provided the vote can be authenticated.
- The Assembly Bureau is empowered to reduce the time for dialogue with the Government and statements during plenary.
- The Assembly crisis cell oversees Government action when the Parliament is not sitting in plenary.
- Meetings of the Assembly Bureau, heads of political blocs, and committees may be held remotely.
Ukraine (28 April 2020)
Plenary meetings are being held physically. The Parliament has passed 12 laws to manage the pandemic.
An extraordinary plenary session took place on 24 April in the plenary hall and respected social distancing. MPs used an electronic voting system, and the session was broadcast live on television and streamed online.
Ten committees held meetings through videoconference. Remote committee meetings voting is done by a show of hands or a verbal nominal vote using Zoom, MS Teams and Cisco WebEx.
All MPs are provided with a tablet with installed VPN (virtual private network) for remote work. MPs have access to the electronic document management system and the electronic bill system (the systems have been developed on SharePoint Apps platform with add-ins: Provider-Hosted apps; MS SharePoint Server 2016 Enterprise); and to the electronic committee's agenda, the electronic plenary agenda, email, citizens appeals made electronically. MPs can create, sign with a digital signature, register and share their e-documents, draft laws, amendments. The system allows MPs to register for a remote Committee session and shows all phases of the legislative process, including the creation and signing of bills, bills under discussion, amendments, MPs speeches, plenary and committee agendas.
United Arab Emirates
The Federal National Council's Health and Environmental committee is currently discussing emergency public health measures for early detection of the coronavirus, evaluation and how to respond.
In terms of technology, parliamentary committees have moved to 100 per cent remote working.
United Kingdom (25 May 2020)
The UK Parliament returned from Easter recess on 21 April following significant technical and procedural work by parliamentary staff over the recess to allow Parliament’s work to continue in both new “hybrid” (meaning a mix of members in the chamber and others participating by video conference) and “virtual” (meaning all members participating by video conference) formats, utilising a bespoke Zoom video conference platform approved for use by UK Parliament’s security and IT experts.
Proposals for relevant changes to standing orders and other procedures to allow hybrid and virtual sitting of the House of Commons were unanimously approved by the House on 21 April and meetings in both formats started on 22 April including a historic first Prime Minister Question time.
On 22 April, the House of Commons issued temporary orders to put in place a remote voting system. This system is now ready to be deployed. It is based on the existing MemberHub platform, used for the remote tabling of questions and motions by MPs and accredited staff. Access to the system is via a single sign-on with multi-factor authentication. Members are able to receive notifications of remote divisions through a number of channels provided by the system and also receive alerts from party whips. The voting system will be in place for the duration of the temporary orders. A ParliamentNow app is also in development.
At the UK Government’s instigation, the House of Commons voted along party lines to end hybrid proceeding and remote divisions on 20 May 2020. When it returns from recess on 2 June, the Commons will continue to practice social distancing with a maximum of 50 MPs allowed in the chamber at any one time and voting in lobbies by MPs standing 2 meters apart. It is open to the Government to reintroduce hybrid sittings and remote voting if needed after the House returns.
The House of Lords is continuing virtual proceedings for the time being.
On 25 March an emergency coronavirus bill had been fast-tracked through all stages and passed into law given the emergency situation facing the UK in halting the spread of COVID-19. The Coronavirus Act 2020 increased the available health and social care workforce by, for example, removing barriers to allow recently retired health workers to return to work and eased the administrative burden on frontline staff. The Act also facilitated drastic measures to contain and slow the spread of the virus by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers. In light of public and parliamentary concerns about the rapid adoption of such measures, there are a range of ongoing COVID-19-related Committee inquiries underway, including the Committee on Home Affairs, the Treasury Committee, the Committee on Women and Equalities, the Health Committee, the Media, Culture and Sport Committee and the Committee on Science and Technology.
There is high level of understanding among UK politicians about how social distancing and lockdown conditions will create new vulnerabilities for women and children living in abusive circumstances. This issue has featured prominently in parliamentary engagement on policing responses to COVID-19, particularly the online evidence session of the Home Affairs Committee, chaired by Yvette Cooper MP last week. As a result of those initial discussions, the Committee has called for specific evidence regarding domestic abuse. Read the report.
On 30 March, the Committee on Women and Equalities chaired by former Government Minister, Caroline Noakes MP, launched an inquiry on COVID-19 responses with regard to people with protected characteristics and has issued a call for evidence. (See https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/94/unequal-impact-coronavirus-covid19-and-the-impact-on-people-with-protected-characteristics/)
There was also a significant inquiry launched by the Joint Committee on Human Rights into the human rights implications of the Government’s overall response to the coronavirus crisis (https://committees.parliament.uk/work/218/the-governments-response-to-covid19-human-rights-implications/).
In terms of the day to day operations of the Parliament, Microsoft Teams is being rolled out for wider use by staff in both Houses and all but essential staff are now carrying out their duties on a work from home basis given the United Kingdom remains under strict lockdown conditions.
United Republic of Tanzania
In response to the pandemic, the National Assembly of Tanzania has restricted the number of Members who can attend parliamentary sessions to 150 (out of 393 Members).
Other members can follow debates on TV in the designated rooms and vote electronically. All Members of Parliament have been given tablets that they can use to ask questions online.
Special trained nurses are stationed at the entrances to Parliament to check the temperature of all those entering.
United States of America (17 April 2020)
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are out of session.
Only a few committees are holding what they are calling "paper hearings" where written statements and prepared witness testimony are posted online. Committee members have until the end of the day to send written questions to the witnesses who then send written answers back within a 96-business-hour turnaround time.
The Senate of Uruguay is functioning with about 20 senators in-house while others are working remotely. Senate meetings are taking place in the House of Representatives’s meeting room which is bigger so distancing can be respected. Only one entry gate is open to the senators.
As there are 99 parliamentarians and the House of Representatives meeting room seats 140, most members of parliament work remotely and attend sittings when convoked. Those who work on the premises access the Legislative Palace through one entry gate. Officials in the risk category need not take part in any of the House’s activities.
The extraordinary measures are in place from 3 to 13 April until further notice. The House has scheduled an ordinary sitting for 14 April and committees can hold meetings as of 13 April. These are to be attended by the minimum number of representatives needed to carry out the necessary work. Reporters will work from their offices and officials will leave the meeting room once they have completed their assignment.
Temperature measurements are taken at the entry gates and masks and hand sanitizers are available everywhere.
The President of the Republic has ordered a salary cut for legislators and officials of ministries.
Uzbekistan (17 April 2020)
The Parliament of Uzbekistan - the Oliy Majlis - continues to hold physical meetings but with some restrictions and respecting social distancing measures.
The Parliament has reduced the number of plenary, committee and other parliamentary events; some are held through videoconferencing.
The plenary meeting of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis was held physically with a minimum number of deputies to ensure a quorum.
Representatives of the relevant ministries and other state bodies take part in plenary meetings by means of video conferencing.
On 24 March 2020, the plenary meeting of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis was held in the form of videoconferencing for the first time.
The Parliament of Vanuatu will livestream its sittings on Facebook and YouTube following the Clerk’s announcement that there will be no access to Parliament due to COVID-19.
The National Assembly is holding parliamentary sittings virtually in application of its internal rules of procedure and debates. Likewise, all the parliamentary committees are functioning, through virtual sessions. The digital platforms allow verification of the quorum with digital signatures to check.
Zimbabwe (17 April 2020)
Meetings of Committees and the Plenary have been deferred to the 5th of May in line with the parliamentary sitting calendar. The parliament adjourned earlier as a precautionary measure due to the COVID 19 outbreak.