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Parliamentary mask mandate extended to June 23

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Mark Holland stops to speak with media before attending a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

MPs will still have to wear masks while they return to Parliament on March 21, despite Ontario dropping its COVID-19 mask mandate in most locations on the same day.

According to a memo from the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) issued Thursday morning, masks will remain mandatory in the parliamentary precinct until at least June 23.

A BOIE spokesperson says the decision on the rules was made last week.

Read more: Ontario lifts mask mandate in most settings March 21, all directives to drop by April 27

The BOIE is the governing body for the House of Commons, making decisions and providing direction on financial and administrative matters for the parliament buildings. The board is chaired by the speaker, and currently includes four Liberal MPs, two Conservatives and one member each from the NDP and Bloc Quebecois.

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The masking rules remain in place for all public settings and workspaces where maintaining two metres of physical distancing is not possible. MPs can remove their masks when they are sitting in the Chamber or committee rooms, but it is strongly recommended they keep their mask on, according to the memo.

Read more: Lifting of mask mandates in Ontario schools being met with mixed reaction

Other rules are beginning to ease around the parliamentary precinct. In the coming months, visitors will be allowed to return.

Starting on the week of April 25, the public gallery in the Chambers will reopen and public access to committee meetings will resume. Then on the week of May 16, guided tours and general public access will begin again.

Visitors will have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to gain entry. A vaccine mandate was put in place for the parliamentary precinct on Nov. 22, 2021.

The memo says this reopening will begin in a “progressive manner” to allow time to stabilize services and ensure there are adequate resources to implement COVID-19 prevention measures.

Visitor access to parliament has been closed for two years, with restrictions in place since Mar. 13, 2020.

The memo said these measures “reflect current public health guidelines and advice.”

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More to come…

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