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The Palace of Westminster is seen from the south bank of the River Thames, in London, on April 20, 2020.NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

The British House of Commons will undergo the biggest transformation in its 700-year history this week when MPs begin participating in proceedings via Zoom.

Westminster is set to resume sitting Wednesday under a hybrid system that will see as many as 120 members of Parliament using the videoconferencing platform and 50 MPs allowed to sit in the chamber under strict physical-distancing guidelines. The Commons will only sit for three days a week, and just a handful of proceedings will take place, including questions to the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers. The new system won’t be used just yet for votes or debates on new legislation.

Parliamentarians around the world have been wrestling with how to pass laws and hold governments to account during the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended economies and led to lockdowns in several countries. Parliaments in several countries have restricted sessions solely to matters that concern COVID-19.

Britain’s House of Commons rose on March 25, two days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson closed schools, shops, restaurants and pubs in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 16,000 people in the U.K.

The hybrid system will be debated by MPs Tuesday and is widely expected to be approved. It will go into effect Wednesday for Prime Minister’s Questions, the weekly session where MPs grill Mr. Johnson for up to an hour. It will also be used for “urgent questions,” a process that allows MPs to summon cabinet ministers to the chamber for scrutiny, and ministerial statements, which are also open to interrogation from backbenchers.

Commons officials said Monday that if the hybrid model is successful it could be expanded to more proceedings, such as debates on legislation, and even lead to the adoption of electronic voting. They also expressed confidence that Zoom can be used securely as long it is carefully managed.

British MPs have long resisted any form of remote voting, preferring to stick with the tradition of filing into “Yes” or “No” lobbies adjacent to the chamber of the House of Commons (in Canada, MPs vote by standing at their desks in the Commons). But the arcane voting practice may not be possible now given the government’s physical-distancing measures. Green MP Caroline Lucas told the Commons last month that it was “ridiculous that we are all going to be cooped up in those lobbies.”

Several MPs have called for the Commons to adopt electronic voting, at least during the lockdown. “We strongly advise that Parliament be conducted virtually until this crisis has abated,” said an open letter to Mr. Johnson sent last week from 47 Labour MPs. “Our country has the technologists, innovators and creativity to make this work quickly, and MPs must not be ‘superspreaders’ of this virus and must also lead by example in working, wherever possible, from home.”

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested that MPs could vote in groups to adhere to physical distancing, but he has also ordered officials to begin preparatory work on a system of remote voting. The government has not said if it would support electronic voting, but ministers have backed the move toward greater use of Zoom across Parliament. Several committees have also been holding virtual hearings using videoconferencing.

There will be plenty of drawbacks to the new system. Westminster is noted for its spontaneity, and MPs routinely interrupt each other and raise points of order during free-flowing debates. Commons officials conceded that much of that back and forth will be lost and cautioned that the technology could have glitches. Their approach for now: bear with us.

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