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Let lawmakers know it’s working from home, not happy holidays

by kenya-tribune

When President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive on how the public service should work during the Covid-19 crisis, he did not declare some form of holiday.

In fact, the Head of State went further to make it clear that those in the public service and other institutions should work from home in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the circumstances, members of both Houses of Parliament — the National Assembly and the Senate — should be working frantically to ensure that the appropriate legislation is created showing guidelines and planning for the responses to mitigate the effects of pandemics in future.

The MPs and senators have failed in their mandate to ensure the appropriate legislation is put in place to ensure that pandemics such as Covid-19, which has devastating effects on the economy, health and lifestyles, is contained in good time.

The lawmakers ought to have seen the bigger picture and legislated upon such matters when the virus was first diagnosed in China late last year. Even more worryingly, amid the disaster, they chose to take a backseat and watch as bodies such as the Law Society of Kenya fought tirelessly in the courts in their bid to ensure that the pandemic is contained.

The noise and banter that they used to lambast us with before the Covid-19 outbreak have now gone silent. As the representatives of voters, one is saddened by the fact that they have gone mute on the matter.

Different countries have proper legislation on pandemic management. There are international obligations through the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations (IHR), which require signatory states to ensure that key principles are set out to guide the states on national preparedness and response to a pandemic.

Kenya is a signatory to these IHRs. But one wonders whether the country has developed national plans for pandemic response. The legislators ought to have heeded this call during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.That is when they would have woken up from their slumber and put proper legislation in place for this moment. But it seems they have buried their head in sand and wished this pandemic away!

Such legislation is essential as it outlines a country’s preparedness and planning in response to pandemics. Legislation is effective as it is binding and easily enforceable.

It is through such measures that we can ascertain whether our country’s legislation has complied with international obligations and ethical principles in times of a crisis. Kenyans would know whether or not the Ministry of Health, in its bid to curb the spread of the virus, does not violate human rights.

An interested party can then come up with evaluation of data for comparative analyses and, if necessary, demand proper pandemic management.

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