The new rule applies to all staff, contractors, and visitors. But it doesn’t apply to MPs, who are not Parliament employees.
A spokesman for the House of Commons spokesman said “the House’s priority is to ensure that those on the estate are safe while business is facilitated.”
“Due to recent increases in COVID-19 across the country, which are also being reflected in Parliament, we have updated our COVID-19 guidance for those working on the estate,” the statement reads.
“Face coverings are now mandatory for all staff, contractors, and third parties while on the estate, unless there is a legitimate exemption in place.”
Officials said Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle would be encouraging elected representatives, despite not being obliged to wear a face covering, to put one on in the Commons chamber unless they are speaking or are exempt.
The mask mandate for parliamentary staff comes MPs are urged to wear masks on Wednesday during the Chancellor’s Budget speech, when the chamber will be packed.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has already committed to wearing a mask on Wednesday, having urged politicians to lead by example following a recent spike in cases.
Mask-wearing is currently not required by law in England, and the guidance advises people to “wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed areas where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said on Friday that it remains “a matter of personal judgment” whether people wear masks or not, and that the mask recommendation only applies to people “in crowded, enclosed spaces where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet”—an argument that the health secretary made six weeks ago.
Javid said on Oct. 20 that ministers didn’t think it was time to deploy plan B in the government’s COVID-19 winter plan, which includes mask mandates in certain settings and vaccine passports, but restrictions will “more likely” be reintroduced if people don’t follow the advice in the government’s guidelines.
There are dozens of circumstantial studies suggesting that masks work to stem the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, although there has been just one randomized-control trial during the pandemic, carried out in Denmark. The researchers found that wearing a “surgical mask when outside the home among others did not reduce, at conventional levels of statistical significance, incident SARS-CoV-2 infection compared with no mask recommendation.”
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.