The first case of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) was reported in Kenya last month.
Previously, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared it a public health emergency of international concern.
The right to health and healthcare is expressly included in our Bill of Rights as well as international law. The State has a responsibility to ensure everyone has access to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
According to the liberal perspective, the State can interfere with individual autonomy to prevent harm to others by adopting measures such as screening, reporting and quarantine.
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The Public Health Act empowers medical officers to isolate and confine a person who has recently been exposed to an infectious disease until he is free to be discharged without being a danger to the public.
In Daniel Ng’etich & Two others vs Attorney General & Three others (2016), it was held that isolation should never be used as a form of punishment and emphasis ought to be placed on counselling of patients as well as ensuring it complies with medical ethics, human rights and international standards.
The national and county governments have a duty to ensure that there are appropriate health facilities for the treatment of infectious diseases such as Covid-19.
I am persuaded by the decision of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Government of the Republic of South Africa & Others vs Grootboom & Others which laid down the principle of the minimum core.
The court adopted reasonableness as the criterion to determine whether the State was taking measures within its available resources to achieve progressive realisation of social-economic and cultural rights.
We the people of Kenya are under a moral and civic duty to observe the basic guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to reduce the general risk of transmission.
Additionally, anyone with recent history of travel to affected countries should self-quarantine for 14 days and promptly report to the nearest health facility.
A multi-agency team drawn from various departments has been working round-the-clock to contain the spread of the virus.
At independence, founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta highlighted, poverty, ignorance and disease as the challenges we had to work hard to save ourselves from. We have proven to be a resilient nation by overcoming various challenges that have affected our healthcare system. Patriotism, like I have come to learn, is not something you wear on your wrist or on your lapel but something you feel deeply.
It comes from the conviction that your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.
The famous quote by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the US comes to my mind. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Bulinda Mugala is a lawyer