SINGAPORE: Safe distancing measures were implemented in Parliament from Wednesday (Mar 25) as part of measures against COVID-19, Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin said at the opening of the session.
The measures include having MPs seated at spaced intervals within the chamber and in the galleries, taking refreshments in different groups to reduce mingling and using separate restrooms.
"These steps are aligned to the stricter safe distancing measures which the Taskforce had announced last week to prevent further spread of COVID-19 cases," said Mr Tan, referring to the measures announced by the multi-ministry taskforce.
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The Public Service Division had issued specific guidelines over the weekend to enhance the implementation of safe distancing measures across agencies.
Mr Tan said that Parliament is the nation's law-making body and parliamentarians must remain steadfast in carrying out their responsibilities even as Singapore tackles the COVID-19 threat.
Singapore has 558 cases in total as of Tuesday night.
The country reported 49 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday night, of which 32 were imported infections.
"Let me assure members that no matter where you are now seated, you can still make your speeches and present your impassioned ideas here in this chamber," said Mr Tan.
"The microphones placed near you will duly capture and record your speeches."
He said this was the first time that seats were spread out in such a manner and over two floors.
Staff and visitors at Parliament House are also subject to certain measures, including temperature screening and travel history declaration.
Mr Tan said it is "not business as usual as we deal with COVID-19", with varying degrees of inconvenience and disruptions to daily life as further spread is being prevented.
"We have done it before for SARS and H1N1, and such collective social responsibility by Singapore and Singaporeans is how we will ultimately prevail over the spectre of COVID-19," he said.