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Parliament summons top CSs over punitive Covid-19 rules

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DAVID MWERE

By DAVID MWERE
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Parliament has summoned Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i and his Health colleague Mutahi Kagwe over police brutality especially the continued arrest and detaining in quarantine facilities citizens those who violate the Covid-19 rules.

The summons come after a committee of the National Assembly declined to approve two sets of the rules generated by the two ministries on suspicion that they are punitive and exposes the people to the risk of contracting the Covid-19 disease more than checking its spread as contemplated in the rules.

A statement by National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai notes that the Committee on Delegated Legislation is concerned about the enforcement of the rules and wants the two CSs to explain how they will help in the fight against the spread of the pandemic.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has protested the excessive force applied by the police and wants the court to declare the rules unconstitutional.

Whereas the National Assembly has already passed various legal instruments crucial to the fight against the pandemic, it has questioned the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Suppression of Covid-19) Rules, 2020 and the Public Health (Covid-19 Restriction of Movement of Persons and Related Measures) Rules, 2020.

“The committee is concerned that the enforcement and implementation of these two sets of rules have since encountered considerable challenges affecting a wide range of the general public. The committee has therefore invited the CSs for a meeting to deliberate on the issues,” Mr Sialai says.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday extended the countrywide dusk to dawn curfew and cessation of movement in and out of the Covid-19 most hit counties of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale for 21 days.

This came after the expiry of the 30-day curfew period.

The prevention, control and suppression of the covid-19 rule makes it a criminal offense for those who defy guidelines such as failure to put on face masks when in public places, social distancing and those engaging in public gatherings.

To administer this rule, those found violating this rule will be deemed to have had a close contact with a Covid-19 infected person with the only remedy to curb further spread being that of arrest and taken to a quarantine facility at the suspects’ expense.

Failure to adorn a face mask also attracts a fine of Sh20,000, which the Delegated Legislation Committee chaired by Uasin Gishu County Woman MP Gladys Shollei and LSK believe is too punitive and may not achieve the desired results.

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Violating curfews attracts Sh1,000 fine as opposed to being huddled into a quarantine facility.

“This exacerbates stigma relating to the disease and increases the chances of persons accused of contravening the law to be in danger of being infected with the disease and not achieving the intended goal of curbing the spread of Covid-19,” the Shollei-led committee says.

The Covid-19 restriction of movement of person rules empower the Health CS to make rules to prevent the spread of the disease in the most affected areas.

The excesses of the police in implementing the rules have seen them labelled as being the weakest link in the fight against the disease.

The suspects are arrested and without regard to the social distancing rule, lumped in police vans to the quarantine facilities some have positive cases.

In some instances, police have been accused of demanding bribes from the people arrested for violating the health guidelines or curfew hours before they are released while others are beaten and robbed of their personal belongings.

The regulations already approved by the MPs include the Value Added Tax (Amendment of the Rate of Tax) Order 2020 to reduce VAT from 16 percent to 14 percent to ease the burden on the public by providing tax relief owing to the economic hardships occasioned by the pandemic.

The Public Finance Management (Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund) Regulation, 2020 provides a framework for the mobilization of resources for emergency response to contain the spread of the disease as directed by President Kenyatta.

The others are the gazette notice on the declaration of notifiable disease and the declaration of formidable disease.

The curfew order, which prohibits public gatherings, processions or movement of people during the curfew period and the curfew variation order directing all employers to ensure that staff not designated as critical or essential services providers leave their workplace by 4pm have been passed.

The MPs have also approved rules on the restricted movement of people into and out of the Covid-19 endemic counties of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale.





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