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DAN O’DONOGHUE: Westminster becomes a ghost town as reality of coronavirus bites

Westminster today
Westminster today

An invisible menace has descended upon Westminster.

The streets surrounding Parliament, which are usually bustling with tourists, street vendors and stressed commuters, are empty.

London’s famous red buses continue to loop Parliament Square – but, beside the driver, they’re completely vacant.

Inside the Palace of Westminster, the picture isn’t much different.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in a quiet chamber during PMQs

The corridors of power have been getting quieter and quieter with each passing day as the reality of coronavirus bites.

The at times raucous bars within the parliamentary estate, Strangers’, the Woolsack and the House of Lords’ bar, are all closed by order of the Speaker.

Portcullis House, which adjoins the Palace of Westminster via an underground tunnel, is usually the hub where journalists gossip to MPs over coffee, aides share lunch and lobbyists meet, but now it’s a ghost town.

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Within the Commons chamber, MPs are being told to stay away unless necessary. Ahead of prime minister’s questions an unprecedented email went round from the Whips’ Office, asking parliamentarians to only enter the chamber if they had a question. The instruction left the main weekly event event in the Commons looking more like a late night adjournment debate, with little over 40 MPs present.

In the parliamentary press gallery the picture is the same, many desks are now empty as journalists opt to work from home instead of braving the commute into central London, which is the epicentre of the outbreak in the UK.

It’s hard to fathom just how much life in the capital has changed in a week, one of the busiest cities in the world has hit the pause button – the question we all want to know up and down the country, is when we can press play again.

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