Economy

Parliament quashes quarantine charges at public institutions

Kenyans placed in mandatory quarantine by the State will be exempted from paying the Sh2,000 daily isolation charges after Parliament Wednesday quashed the fee and declared it unconstitutional.

This came as Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe announced that the government would henceforth foot the quarantine bills.

Members of Parliament yesterday backed a Motion sponsored by Mvita legislator Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir that sought to waive the fee for those placed under mandatory quarantine.

This is a relief to infected Kenyans and those placed in State-backed isolation centres for being in contact with persons infected by coronavirus and who have been forced to pay up to nearly Sh50,000 for the two to three-week stay in the quarantine centres.

However, those placed in forced isolation units for defying social distancing rules and the dusk-to-dawn curfew are excluded from the waiver.

The Sh2,000 daily fee had kicked up a storm and was partly blamed for resistance to voluntary testing for coronavirus that has infected 582 people and killed 26 people in the country.

“The government considers waiving charges payable by persons who are under mandatory quarantine, excluding those isolated due to violation of social distancing and curfew requirement,” said the Motion.

The vote was backed by MPs via acclamation in a day when about 40 lawmakers were in the House in keeping with the State’s social distancing rules.

The Ministry of Health has since the confirmation of the first Covid-19 infection put infected Kenyans and those who came into contact with them on a minimum 14 days of isolation in public facilities or high-end hotels. The money caters for doctors’ fees, sanitation, cleaning, among other services.

“Mr Speaker, so many people were placed under quarantine and they have no money to clear that bill. We have not only put them in very difficult positions but we have risked their lives… We have a problem in our intervention priorities,” Wajir North Ahmed Abdisalan said.

MPs noted that the government has been punishing Kenyans for contradicting the disease by subjecting them to the daily charges despite budgetary allocations to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The Treasury has set aside Sh40 billion to back the fight against the virus.

A human rights organisation had last month sued the government over the daily charges on grounds that majority of people are poor and can hardly afford to feed their families let alone pay the daily charges at the isolation facilities. Those opting for isolation in high-end hotels and schools have paid hundreds of thousands of shillings.

Some of the State quarantine centres include the Kenya Medical Training Colleges (KMTC) campuses, universities, colleges and secondary schools but others have been given the option to isolate in high-end hotels at their own cost.

Kenyans have in addition to decrying the daily charges also complained of poor living conditions in the public quarantine centres including lack of running water and lack of social distancing in the sleeping rooms.