Wear a mask at all times in the House, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu told parliamentarians after Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav sought permission to remove his face mask while speaking saying it caused "suffocation".
"Wearing a mask and speaking, and wearing a mask and continuously sitting, there is some discomfiture... I personally spoke to Director General of the ICMR (India's top medical research body), he told me it is better to keep the mask on (at all times) since this hall is air conditioned... Their initial suggestion was to wear a mask while talking to a person. Now, the advice is to always wear a mask. It may change later," Mr Naidu told the House today saying wearing a mask is the mandate.
In an advisory issued in April, the government had recommended that to prevent spread of the coronavirus in a closed space, rooms and offices with air conditioning must be well-ventilated and humidified and added that some windows should be open or exhaust units activated to ensure fresh air circulation.
Since no fresh air ventilation is possible in the Rajya Sabha, wearing a mask while inside an air conditioned chamber is advisable to check the spread of the contagion.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman's appeal to MPs to wear a face mask comes as 17 members of the Lok Sabha and eight from the Rajya Sabha tested positive for coronavirus in the mandatory RT-PCR tests conducted in the parliament building complex.
Unprecedented safety measures - compulsory wearing of face mask, staggered seating and plexiglass shields around benches - have been taken in consultation with the ICMR to protect MPs from COVID-19 as the monsoon session began on Monday amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier in August, ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava had said that "irresponsible people who are not using face masks, not maintaining social distaining are the ones who are driving the pandemic in India".
India's COVID-19 case tally crossed the 50-lakh mark today with a spike of 90,123 new cases and 1,290 deaths - the highest the country has seen in 24 hours.