The Nairobi County Assembly leadership is mulling closing down due to a surge in Covid-19 cases among MCAs.
Assembly Majority Leader Abdi Guyo yesterday revealed that close to 20 members of the Nairobi County Assembly could be positive and closure of the assembly would be to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus that has so far claimed more than 1000 lives in the country.
Guyo, who doubles up as Matopeni ward MCA, said that the request to suspend physical plenary sittings had been floated by numerous MCAs and that the House Business Committee chaired by speaker Benson Mutura will be sitting to deliberate on the matter.
“The number of MCAs that have contracted Covid-19 has increased and is just shy of the number 20 mark. As the leadership, we are yet to collectively discuss whether to close down but I can guarantee you that that is the route we are going to take,” said Guyo.
Minority leader Michael Ogada said measures such as the reduction of the number of staff accessing the assembly precincts had already been implemented.
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He also explained that the leadership had resolved that going forward, only a maximum of 10 people would be allowed into the chambers, with preference being given to the speaker, the majority leader, and the minority leaders, not forgetting their deputies.
“We have looked at it and agreed that we reduce the workforce from operating from within. Physical sittings have also been halted. This is set to be announced by the speaker to the members. Not more than 10 MCAs are going to be allowed into the assembly chambers at any given time.
“There’s actually a big problem at the assembly. We are yet to know the exact number of those infected because people are not speaking up. The best thing however is to take precautions and adhere to the set-out Ministry of Health regulations,” said Ogada.
Deputy Majority Whip Waithera Chege, on her part, said that the leadership was considering closing the assembly earlier than usual. “The assembly leadership is considering an early exit for the year 2020. It is no longer safe to be physically operating from there. I will personally request the speaker to consider the shutdown,” said the South B MCA.
Sought for comment, speaker Benson Mutura said that closure of the assembly would not solve the covid-19 issue and insisted that members should follow the guidelines laid out by the Ministry of Health.
He noted that the only way to keep the virus at bay was by reducing human traffic at the assembly precincts and those present maintaining social distancing.
“The proceedings are virtual now. Closure of the assembly is not a solution because even while out there, the MCAs are also at risk of contracting the virus. The best we can do is abide by the health guidelines" he said.
The Nairobi County assembly has partly been conducting its house business virtually since June 2020 when former speaker Beatrice Elachi suspended physical sessions due to Covid-19.
Committee sittings are also virtual save for critical ones such as the public accounts committee (PAC) and the Finance Budget and Appropriations committee.
If the closure is implemented, Nairobi County Assembly will join Kericho, Mombasa, Uasin Gishu, and Kilifi County assemblies as well as the Kakamega County Governments headquarters that have closed down in the recent past due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They were closed after MCAs and staffers tested positive for covid-19.
It will also be the second time that the Nairobi assembly will be closing due to the virus. In March, former assembly speaker Beatrice Elachi suspended plenary sittings for thirty days as a measure to deal with covid-19.
Foreign travel by members and staff of the city assembly was also halted, with visiting delegations such as schools and international groups to the County assembly also suspended.