School and college tours to the House of Commons could be rescheduled and visitors prevented from entering parliament under new measures designed to cope with the spread of coronavirus.
Experts met with authorities from the House of Lords and House of Commons earlier in the week to discuss the next steps if the government moves the country into the delay stage of COVID-19 control.
The decision to move to delay is expected to be taken later on Thursday after a meeting of the emergency COBRA committee chaired by the prime minister.
Experts advised parliamentary authorities that closing the estate would not have a significant impact on preventing the virus from spreading at this stage.
Instead a staged process was proposed, during which visitors would be restricted, events held on the estate reduced and school tours rescheduled for later in the year.
MPs were told at another meeting this week that the virus was already likely to be spreading among staff on the estate and were urged to wash hands regularly.
Hand sanitiser has also been installed in hundreds of locations around parliament.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, told MPs on Thursday it was “of fundamental importance that we keep this place open”.
“It is also important that we are treated and we treat ourselves in the same way as the rest of the country,” he added.
“And that we go ahead at the same pace as the rest of the country.
“There should not be a difference in how parliament is behaving from the advice that is being given to our constituents.
“We shouldn’t try and seek to be a special case for ourselves.”
Mr Rees-Mogg indicated emergency laws to deal with the coronavirus pandemic could be introduced in the week beginning 23 March, subject to talks between the government and Labour.
“It is something where the whole nation is coming together as one and I’m grateful for the support so far being received from the official opposition,” he added.
Mr Rees-Mogg also dismissed suggestions that MPs could alter their usual practices, such as changing the way they vote, after he revealed Public Health England had found the Commons’ voting lobbies to not be a high risk to spreading coronavirus.
This week health minister Nadine Dorries tested positive for the virus and a Cabinet minister is waiting to be tested, while a number of other MPs have taken the decision to self-isolate.
A parliamentary source said authorities are being guided by advice from a public health expert and are taking necessary steps to avoid the spread of the virus among MPs, peers and staff.
But they also want to avoid worrying the public by closing down parliament and sending a panicked message.
Some MPs have expressed concern that extra measures have not been taken following confirmation that Ms Dorries has contracted the virus.
However, others warned that closing the Commons and Lords would prevent MPs from passing key pieces of legislation.
This includes emergency measures to bolster the NHS and allow supermarkets to keep food supplies flowing around the country.
The finance bill also needs to be voted through parliament to enact emergency measures set out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in Wednesday’s budget.