File picture: The Parliament Chamber during a debate which observed social distancing in the Lower House earlier this year.

It ll be a ceremonial opening for tomorrow’s launch of the new Parliamentary term – but COVID-19 pandemic measures will curtail having the usual Defence Force honour guard on this occasion.

And while the pandemic landscape exists, members of the public will have to follow this term’s Parliament proceedings via radio, television and Internet since public access to the Parliament precincts will be halted.

This was announced by the Parliament yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s 10.30 am launch of the first session of the 12th Parliament. This follows the August 10 General Election where the People’s National Movement won 22 of the 41 seats and the United National Congress 19.

Tomorrow, the 41 Members of the House of Representatives and the 31 members of the Senate will meet in their respective South and North chambers to be sworn in.

Subsequently, members of both Houses will assemble in the North chamber where President Paula-Mae Weekes will address the assembly.

Due to social distancing measures in the House, Senators will be seated in the public gallery during the President’s address. Temperature scanning, hand sanitisation and physical distancing measures will also be instituted and continue at all sittings.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the event will be scaled-down compared to previous launches where all members of the judiciary and diplomatic corps attended.

Apart from the 16 Government senators, the nine Independent senators are Paul Richards, Evans Welch, Dr Varma Deyalsingh, Anthony Vieira, Amrita Deonarine, Hazel Thompson-Ahye, Maria Dillon-Remy and Deoroop Teemul.

Opposition sources have tipped UNC’s six senators to include Jearlene John, campaign leader/businessman Damien Lyder, veteran Wade Mark and several new faces, including well-known attorneys. There was a question mark over other defeated candidates, including David Nakhid.

In work sessions ahead, social distancing measures will continue applying. For future debates, some Members will be seated in the Chambers while others will be seated in meeting rooms throughout the Parliamentary Complex with access to television screens to view proceedings. If a vote is called for, those Members not seated in the Chamber will be allowed a few minutes to get to the Chamber, where they will cast their vote then return to meeting rooms, the T&T Guardian was told. —Gail Alexander