UK parliament closes its doors after rushing through new emergency law

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Britain's Houses of Parliament went into recess Wednesday after lawmakers rushed through the final stages of a bill to give the government emergency powers in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

One of the final acts of politicians before the shutdown was approving the emergency bill to give a list of temporary powers to Boris Johnson's government to fight COVID-19.

The bill passed through the House of Commons in just one day on Tuesday before being passed to the House of Lords for the process to be concluded Wednesday.

Deputy Speaker of the Commons Eleanor Laing told MPs the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Contingencies Fund Act 2020 have been granted Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II, turning the two bills into law.

The new legislation gives the government new emergency powers to combat the spread of COVID-19, and to release funds worth billions of pounds to deal with the current crisis.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said parliament would reassemble on April 21, but that will depend on the status of the pandemic at that stage.

Rees-Mogg said talks with parliamentary officials will continue about how parliament can continue to operate safely after the recess.

"Whilst my business statement is made with the aim of bringing the house back, as normal, on 21 April, we will continue to keep the situation under review in line with medical advice," he told MPs.

The House of Lords also closed on Wednesday after bringing forward its recess.

The Palace of Westminster, home of both the Commons and the House of Lords, was scheduled to close soon for an Easter holiday recess. But the closing date was brought forward to Wednesday as a response to the virus.

Politicians had already started keeping at least two meters apart in the chambers as part of government instructions for the population to practice social distancing. 

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