All MPs back in Parliament chamber with easing of safe distancing rules; public galleries now open
SINGAPORE: For the first time in two years, all Members of Parliament were on Monday (Apr 4) seated in the main chamber without the minimum one-seat safe distance that was imposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The safe distancing measures meant that some MPs had to sit in galleries at different levels.
But as Singapore has eased COVID-19 rules since Mar 29, with safe distancing no longer required between individuals wearing masks, measures were similarly adjusted in Parliament.
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin laid out the changes when the sitting started at 1.30pm on Monday, noting that all MPs are now seated within the Parliament chamber on the same floor.
"This marks the first time that members in the 14th Parliament, which opened on 24th August 2020, are able to conduct parliamentary proceedings with all members seated on the same floor. And I have to admit that I am very pleased to see this happen," said Mr Tan, as he thanked MPs who had to be seated on other floors for their "forbearance".
While safe distancing is no longer required, Mr Tan said the current sitting arrangement is still based on MPs being separated into two groups. They will take their breaks in separate rooms according to the group they are in.
Within Parliament House, MPs are still required to be masked except when asking questions or making speeches.
There are seats set aside in the Speaker's gallery for members who are close contacts of COVID-19 cases, but who have tested negative for the virus. They will also have a separate rostrum.
Public galleries will now be open to members of the public who wish to follow the proceedings, Mr Tan said, adding that Parliament will continue to follow the latest public health advisories and make adjustments accordingly.
"Honourable members, we have reached a milestone in our fight against COVID-19 and we can take heart that in this House, we have remained steadfast in carrying out our duties as parliamentarians with deep commitment even in the face of such crisis," he said to MPs in the House.
"We did not let the virus slow us down and we soldiered on to complete the parliamentary business before us. This sense of commitment and solidarity, with one another and with Singaporeans, must remain strong as we move into the next phase of fresh challenges, but also of opportunities."