The upcoming sittings of federal parliament may be postponed amid the rapidly worsening Covid outbreak across the country.
Discussions are under way between parliament’s presiding officers and health officials about the sittings, which are due to run for four out of five weeks in August and early September.
Scott Morrison arrived in Canberra on Monday in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary sitting period after receiving an exemption from ACT Health as an “essential worker”.
On Friday, he said he was relocating to Canberra in preparation for the parliamentary sittings, but the rapidly changing situation could yet see the session delayed.
MPs from Sydney have been advised that if they intend to travel to Canberra for the parliamentary sittings they will be required to quarantine for 14 days under ACT exemptions applying to essential workers.
They have also been given the option of remotely connecting to parliament to appear by video link, as many were forced to do during the pared back parliamentary sittings in mid-2020.
The ACT government has a different stay-at-home requirement in place for anyone from Victoria who is granted a work exemption, with these likewise being granted only in “exceptional circumstances”.
Complicating the decision is the treatment of ACT by other state governments. SA, Victoria and WA all require any person returning from the territory to quarantine for another 14 days.
Guardian Australia understands that discussions were held late on Monday over whether to delay the forthcoming sittings, with September currently open on the parliamentary sitting calendar, providing some flexibility over coming months.
A spokesperson for Morrison said under the requirements of his exemption, the prime minister would be obliged to follow “strict protocols set out by the chief medical officer and ACT Health”.
“The prime minister will be required to restrict his movements to the Lodge and specific areas within Parliament House including his office and the Cabinet rooms,” the spokesperson said.
He will also be required to undertake daily Covid-19 tests and wear a mask.
When parliament is sitting, the number of people working in Parliament House swells to an estimated 5,000 people, with MPs and political advisers descending on Canberra from across the country.
The potential spread of the virus into the territory is of concern to the ACT government, which has recorded more than 300 days without a positive Covid case.
Last year, parliamentary sittings in May and June were cancelled altogether, with the budget postponed until October after sittings resumed in August.
An ACT Health spokesperson said the territory’s chief health officer and the commonwealth chief medical officer had “endorsed guidance to federal parliamentarians around their entry into the ACT for essential parliamentary business.”
“This guidance outlines a series of core principles which MPs and senators are required to follow, and reflects the current travel restrictions that are in place for NSW and Victoria,” the spokesperson said.