Sri Lanka’s new Parliament session to commence on Aug 20 with strict COVID-19 health precautions

Colombo, Aug 10: Sri Lanka’s new Parliament will meet for the first time on August 20 with strict COVID-19 health protocols and no visitors will be allowed, a senior official said on Monday.
Sri Lanka, one of the very few countries in Asia to hold a General Election amidst the pandemic, has reported 2,844 coronavirus cases, including 2,579 recoveries and 11 fatalities.
The Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, registered a landslide victory in the August 5 general election, securing two-thirds majority in the 225-member Parliament.
The SLPP government has 150 members in the House and the combined Opposition strength is limited to 75.
Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in on Sunday as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister.
“We will have strict health guidelines set in place for all parliamentary sessions,” Narendra Fernando, Sergeant-at-arms of Parliament, said.
The new Parliament session is scheduled on August 20, he said.
“There is no one-metre gap between the seats within the Parliament’s chamber. So it is difficult to maintain the one-meter social distancing rule. All members of Parliament are advised to wear face masks when they address the chamber,” he said.
Other health guidelines such as washing of hands and social distancing would be practiced.
“Public galleries won’t be opened and no visitors will be allowed,” Fernando said.
The seating arrangement of the lawmakers will be made according to the seniority of positions they held in the government and the seniority in the number of years as a parliamentarian, Fernando said.
However, on the first day there will be no such reservations and lawmakers can sit anywhere.
Sri Lanka was one of the very few Asian countries apart from Singapore to hold general elections in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (PTI)