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It is illegal to take curfew violators into quarantine

By Roselyne Obala | April 27th 2020 at 10:45:00 GMT +0300

A police officer in Isiolo arrests individuals who were either drunk or failed to put on face masks last week. [Bruno Mutunga, Standard]

Legislators have declined to approve rules imposing Sh20,000 fine for anyone found without a mask and another sanctioning forced quarantine for curfew violators, terming them punitive.

Lawmakers say it is wrong for authorities to substitute Sh1,000 fine for curfew violators with mandatory quarantine, arguing such wrongdoers are exposed to coronavirus infections when they are mixed with suspected cases.

The National Assembly declined to approve the two sets of rules drafted by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19 and instead summoned Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Health colleague Mutahi Kagwe.

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The rules stipulate that failure to adorn a face mask attracts a fine of Sh20,000, which the committee and the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) believe is too punitive and may not achieve the desired goal.

Violating curfews attracts Sh1,000 fine, as opposed to being forced 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,” said the Delegated Legislation committee headed by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei.

The committee is set to grill the two CSs, who are also members of the National Emergency Response Committee on suspicion that they are more interested in punishing Kenyans than checking the disease spread as contemplated in the rules. 

Legal instruments

In a statement by National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai, the committee explained that whereas MPs had already passed various legal instruments crucial to the fight against the pandemic, the committee had expressed reservations with 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,” stated Mr Sialai.

The prevention, control and suppression of the Covid-19 rule makes it a criminal offence 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. 

The implementation of this rule means those found in violation will be deemed to have had a close contact with a Covid-19 infected persons, with the only remedy to curb further spread being that of arrest and mandatory quarantine in a facility at the suspects’ expense.

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 committee now wants the two CSs to explain how they will help in the fight against the spread of the pandemic.

Regulations already approved by the MPs include the Value Added Tax (Amendment of the Rate of Tax) Order 2020 to reduce VAT from 16 per cent to 14 per cent in order 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 mobilisation of resources for emergency response to contain the spread of the disease as directed by President Uhuru 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 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. 

The rejection of the two rules comes in the backdrop of excesses of the police in implementing the rules. 

Police have been in a spot for demanding bribes from people arrested for violating the health guidelines or curfew hours before they are released, while others are beaten and robbed of their personal effects.


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