Coronavirus “mowed down” the State Duma: they will sit in February for only a week

Zone of increased danger

Omikron forced the State Duma to drastically reduce the time of its work in the building on Okhotny Ryad. In February, the deputies will gather in the plenary hall only three times instead of the usual nine. And after the New Year, the speaker stopped reporting the number of sick people’s deputies altogether, although he used to do it every week.

Photo: duma

The State Duma regulations state that deputies must work in the capital for three weeks (participate in plenary sessions, meetings of committees and commissions, parliamentary hearings and other events), and communicate with voters in the regions for one week. Moreover, in each of those weeks that are supposed to be in Moscow, three plenary sessions should be held: on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, the same regulation admits that, due to certain circumstances, the usual rules can be canceled, and they have been canceled more than once …

So they happened again, certain circumstances. At the end of last year, the deputies voted for the schedule of their work for the spring session of 2022: it followed from the document that in January 2022 there would be two plenary weeks of three meetings, and in February, as expected, three plenary weeks of three meetings. But when the State Duma met on January 18 after the New Year holidays and the regional week that joined them, Omicron was already walking around the apparatus with might and main. And after receiving the results of the weekly Monday control PCR, there were fewer deputies at the first “plenary” than at any of the meetings last December. Then less than 408 (with a total of 450) were not registered, but here – only 404 …

The Council of the Duma immediately decided to reduce the number of plenary meetings in January from three to two per week, and then this decision was extended in agreement with the leadership of all Duma factions until the end of April.

But the increase in the number of cases, apparently , was gaining momentum, as in the country as a whole. On January 20, 401 deputies registered at the beginning of the plenary session, 381 on January 25, and 376 on January 26, when the State Duma received Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Of course, we cannot say that all those who were absent got sick with the coronavirus – maybe they are just “contact” and are in quarantine, maybe they got sick, but something else, or maybe there were family circumstances, an urgent event or a business trip . It is possible that some of the missing are so-called “age” deputies like United Russia members Valentina Tereshkova, Artur Chilingarov or Vladimir Resin, whom the speaker has repeatedly publicly asked from the very beginning of the pandemic not to go to the hall, but to follow the discussion from their offices, via broadcast… not all deputies who have picked up the coronavirus inform their voters about it through social networks, as independent deputy Oksana Dmitrieva did during the New Year holidays or United Russia Nikolai Pankov did the other day. State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who last year at almost every plenary meeting reported on the number of cases, the number of hospitalized, the number of vaccinated and recovered among the deputies and in the apparatus (that is, what is called “herd immunity”), in January why -something never announced such figures.

And on January 26, the State Duma voted to amend its work schedule for the spring session of 2022. As First Vice Speaker Alexander Zhukov (ER) explained, “the situation with the pandemic is developing in such a way that we consulted with the leadership of the factions and decided that in February there will be only one week of meetings, at which only priority bills will be discussed.” Until February 14, the deputies were invited to “work in the regions” where the coronavirus is also raging and almost all mass events are banned, then they will arrive in Moscow, hold three plenary sessions (February 15, 16 and 17) and leave again until March 6. What happens next depends on the situation in the country and the capital.

It is not allowed to hold plenary meetings and vote remotely by the law “On the status of a senator of the Russian Federation and a deputy of the State Duma” and the regulations of the work of both chambers of parliament – personal presence is required. Committees and commissions are another matter. They can meet via videoconferencing, some have been doing so for almost two years.

The fact is that the plenary hall and other small halls and halls where deputies gather for various kinds and levels of discussions of various issues are areas of increased danger. First of all, they are cramped (in the big hall the deputies sit for several hours in dense rows, in the absence of normal ventilation). And secondly, even if you look at photos from Duma events or filming footage, you can be sure that not only respirators, which are now mandatory at mass events in many European countries, but not everyone wears masks. Ordinary employees of the Duma apparatus sit several people in small offices, and also in the absence of normal ventilation. And “Omicron”, as you know, almost nullified the concept of “herd immunity”, because with great speed both those vaccinated, and those who have been ill, and those who have not been ill and not vaccinated, fall ill. With different potential consequences, of course, but they still get sick.

Now a significant part of the staff of the apparatus – those whose presence in the building on Okhotny is not necessary to ensure the work of the parliament – has again been sent to a remote location, the possibility of assistants to deputies visiting the Duma is significantly limited.

There are actually two differences between the current mode of operation of the State Duma and what was in effect during the previous “waves” and “strains”: now canteens and buffets continue to work, and journalists are allowed into the building, albeit in very limited quantities and with vaccination certificates.


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