A suit, which compels the national and county governments to pay coronavirus quarantine cost, “raises novel issues of serious public concern”, a judge has said.
But Mombasa High Court judge Erick Ogola did not grant petitioner’s orders in his ruling.
MUHURI wants the court to scrap general upkeep costs and expenses imposed upon and demanded from those under quarantine. MUHURI sued Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, Attorney General Paul Kihara, and Inspector General of police, Hillary Mutyambai on April 23.
And after the April 29 hearing, Ogola ruled: “In this pandemic, new direction emerge almost on a daily basis, and the court should not rush to make any orders without hearing parties substantively.”
Ogola added: “[The] application raises novel issues of serious public concern. However, these issues should be canvased in a robust way through an inter-partes hearing where every party is given a chance to make out their case.”
Kenyans can barely afford basic needs like food and clearly cannot pay at least Sh28,000 in quarantine centres, the suit says.
“Designated government health facilities… are forcing such persons to cater and pay for expenses related to medical, accommodation and general upkeep contrary to the Public Health Act, Cap. 242,” the petition says.
The pandemic has shattered the economy, affecting many livelihoods, the case notes.
MUHURI wants the court to prohibit law enforcers from making arbitrary arrests and unjustified mandatory quarantine of negative patients. The healthy will be infected with Covid-19 if this is not done, MUHURI chairman Khelef Khalifa, says in his affidavit.
Kenya confirmed 374 cases of the virus and 14 deaths, as of April 29.
Police have arbitrarily arrested dozens and placed them under forced quarantine. Some broke out citing poor conditions at the centres. They say some facilities are not much better than prisons, with poor hygiene. Social distancing is impossible because of overcrowding. Others attempted suicide after being held over unpaid quarantine bill.
Ogola said the court must have regard to any other similar matter, which may have been filed elsewhere in the country.
Activist Okiya Omtatah also sued to demand the state to refund the money it collected from all Kenyans in mandatory quarantine. He filed the case at Milimani High Court, Nairobi.
Omtatah says compulsory quarantine must be approved by a Magistrate Court – which it has not.
CS Kagwe is wrong in using the Public Health Act to create criminal offences, which is Parliament’s mandate, Omtatah avers.
Ogola said the full hearing will be May 5 via zoom.