BHUBANESWAR: The eight-day long monsoon session of the Odisha Legislative Assembly has been convened from September 29 amid strict adherence to COVID guidelines, a notification issued by the assembly secretariat said on Monday.

The session will end on October 7, said the order.

Seven days have been earmarked for official business while one day (October 6) is slated for taking up the private members business, according to the itinerary released.

Legislative Assembly Speaker S N Patro said the House will also sit on Sunday.

However, the Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 will be a holiday, he said.

Patro said since the elderly persons are prone to COVID- 19, old age MLAs can join the proceedings through video conferencing from their respective district headquarters.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is over 73 years of age and he hardly moves out of his home in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

As per the decision taken earlier, all the MLAs and assembly staff will undergo COVID-19 tests two days before the commencement of the session.

“Only COVID-19 negative lawmakers will be allowed to participate in the proceeding and entry into the assembly premises,” the speaker said.

At least 29 MLAs including 7 ministers have tested positive for COVID-19 since July end and over a dozen of them might have to skip the session for want of completion of 17 days quarantine period, sources said.

The previous session of the assembly was concluded on March 30 and the next session should be held within six months duration.

Odisha has a 147-member assembly.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal has 112 members in the house.

BJP is the main opposition party having 22 legislators while Congress has 19 lawmakers and CPI(M) one.

There is one Independent MLA while two seats are vacant due to death of one member each of the BJD and the BJP.

This is for the first time that the session will be held amid the pandemic, all safety measures will be taken as per the COVID-19 guideline, a senior official of the assembly secretariat said.

Odisha has reported over 1.55 lakh positive cases so far out of whom over 1.18 lakh have been cured, while the tally of fatalities stand at 637.

The session will be held in the assembly building itself and arrangements have been made for maintaining physical distancing between participating members, assembly secretary D Satapathy told PTI.

“We will follow the procedure of conducting business in the assembly in accordance with the one being followed in Parliament,” he said adding seating arrangements for members will also be made in the visitors gallery and the speakers gallery.

He said the members will be provided with face masks, gloves, sanitisers and other essential items required to contain spread of the infection.

See-through fiber shields will also be fixed in front of each seat, Satpathy said.

However, the assembly secretariat is yet to take a decision on allowing journalists to the press gallery.

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