MPs, peers and staff working in parliament are able to take rapid Covid-19 tests that can produce results within 45 minutes at a newly opened facility in Westminster designed to help stem the spread of the virus.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, was among those on Tuesday who made use of the tests – available to those who do not have symptoms – and told MPs he returned a negative result.
Although MPs have largely been keeping away from Westminster, with contributions in the Commons often being made via video link, the testing centre has been open on the parliamentary estate since Monday to politicians and staff who are required to work there in person.
The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said the tests, which involve swabs being taken from the nose and back of the throat, were “part of a suite of measures introduced by house authorities to give reassurance to all those who have to be on site”.
He added: “While we have asked members to participate in business virtually, and house staff on the estate to be kept to a bare minimum, we have to accept that some people need to be here. So I am really pleased we are now in a position to enable every MP and staff member the chance of a test, to help stop this awful virus in its tracks.
“Almost overnight we have turned a large committee room in Portcullis House into a sanitised testing centre with clinical assistants working every weekday to keep safe those who have to be here.”
Addressing the Commons on Tuesday, Hancock, who referenced the fact that about one in three people with coronavirus do not display symptoms but can still pass it on, said: “Mr Speaker, across the whole country we’re expanding workplace testing, including here in parliament itself.
“And this morning, you and I together visited the new Covid testing site here in parliament which offers all of those who work here – peers, MPs and staff – the chance to get tested. I took a test this morning, thankfully negative. It’s quick and easy and you get the result back fast. And I encourage colleagues who have to be here in person to sign up and do the same.”
The tests in parliament are booked by appointment, with those wanting to use them having to ensure they have no coronavirus symptoms and have their mobile phone with them to register the test on the government’s website. In addition, they should not have had anything to eat or drink half an hour before the test, or have tested positive for Covid in the last 90 days.