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The coronavirus pandemic of 2019–2020 has forced countries across the world to deal with a new and rapidly worsening health threat. States have had to make rapid decisions, often without a full understanding of the impacts of different choices, in both the short and the longer term.

This Parliamentary Primer considers the complex and sometimes conflicting requirements of parliaments confronted with the 2019–2020 coronavirus pandemic. It discuss how parliaments have played an essential function in the policy debate during the crises, particularly in the discussion and debate about the types of economic measures that should be put in place to avoid economic collapse and personal hardship, while restrictive measures were in place that choked off economic activity. Examples are provided of how parliaments in several countries improved government proposals to ensure wider coverage and, particularly, support to vulnerable citizens.