BELMOPAN. Fri. Jan 8, 2021– Introducing the newly modified chambers of the National Assembly and laying down the rules of engagement were the first order of business for the Speaker of the House, Hon. Valerie Woods, during the House of Representatives’ first working session on Friday, January 8, 2021. This highly anticipated meeting, which lasted almost ten hours, was postponed in December 2020 to allow for a retrofitting of the chambers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among representatives. Several PUP members of the House, including Prime Minister John Briceño, have contracted COVID-19 since the November 2020 General Election.
“After consulting with colleague speakers within CARICOM, as well as with our own public health officials to determine best practices, given our limitations, the staff and I have put in place necessary measures, as is evident, with the configuration of today’s sitting to conduct this first meeting with health safety as the priority,” stated Woods.
The newly designed chambers feature plastic cubicles for each member of the House, and only six PUP area representatives are seated in the gallery to ensure observance of social distance protocols. Strategically placed hand sanitization stations are set up inside the chambers as well.
All officials are asked to wear face masks at all time. For those who must remove their mask to speak, a booth is available and is sanitized after each use. Speaker Woods shared that these measures were put in place after consultation with the Acting Director of Health Services, Dr. Mellissa Diaz-Musa and the Principal Health Inspector, John Bodden. He was present at the day’s sitting to observe the effectiveness of the measures.
Aside from Bodden, only the media was allowed inside. The gallery remained closed to the public.