Landlords and employers are now required by law to report to the authorities any case of persons in their premises or place of work whom they suspect exhibit symptoms of Covid-19.
This is one of the new regulations gazetted by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on Friday last week, under the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Suppression of Covid-19) Rules, 2020.
The new rules are part of the government’s measures in tackling the spread of Covid-19, which has so far claimed six lives, with 158 reported cases in the country.
The rules give Mr Kagwe powers to push for controlled lockdowns in infected areas, while also designating private facilities that could be used as isolation and treatment centres should the need arise.
They also empower public health workers, who are the frontline staff managing the pandemic, with sweeping powers to control the spread of the disease within their jurisdictions.
In the new regulations, household heads, landlords and even employers are now expected to notify authorities of any persons suspected to be suffering from Covid-19 or take them to the nearest medical facility.
“Every owner, person in charge of, or occupier of premises, and every employer and head of a household, who suspects that any person who is residing at his or her premises or who is in his or her employment, is suffering from Covid-19, shall notify a medical officer, public health officer, a medical practitioner and or the nearest administrator or take that person to a medical officer, medical practitioner or health facility for treatment,” the regulations read in part.
Those who will contravene these new rules, Mr Mutahi says, will be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh20,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both.
The CS also now has powers, through a Gazette notice, or by advertisement in the newspaper, to declare any place to be an infected area, and thereafter offer regulation on how to handle such areas for the eradication of Covid-19.
The medical and national government administration officers have now also been tasked with ensuring that patients are attended to at the nearest health facilities, and also perform contact tracing for those who would have interacted with carriers, or deceased persons as a result of Covid-19.
These officers now have powers to order the quarantine of immediate family members, either within the household or at a designated facility within their jurisdiction.
“Every medical officer of health, public health officer or medical practitioner who becomes aware, by post-mortem examination or otherwise, that any person has died of Covid-19, shall immediately inform the head of the household, or the occupier of the premises, or any person who has been in attendance on or contact with the deceased person, of the infectious nature of Covid-19 and of the precautions to be taken to prevent its transmission to other persons,” it reads in part.
The new rules now empower public health officials with a written warrant from medical officers to conduct a search of premises they suspect have Covid-19 patients, and if they suspect it to host a carrier, have them moved to isolation.
“Where any case of Covid-19 is transferred to a health facility, the medical officer of health or public health officer shall immediately visit and inspect the premises where that person resides and may; order all persons who have attended to or been in contact with the person to remain on the premises where the person was at the time of infection; cause those persons to be removed to a health facility or other suitable place provided for the reception of persons suffering from Covid-19 or for quarantine,” the new rules state.
The regulations also now offer guidelines on how to handle contaminated buildings and premises, with a medical officer now having the discretion to either order for decontamination of such, or evacuation of its occupants to isolation centres.
They can also prohibit entry into such premises for as long as may be necessary to decontaminate.
Should the country’s public cemeteries not be able to cope with the number of dead, the Health Cabinet Secretary can designate an area as a burial site for persons who succumbed to Covid-19.
Those who will succumb to coronavirus will be expected to be buried between 9 am and 3 pm, with children under the age of twelve not allowed in the send-off ceremony unless accompanied by an adult or medical officer.
“…the attendance at the burial or crematorium shall not exceed fifteen persons without prior written consent of a medical officer of health,” the rules read in part.
It is also now an offense to aid the escape of those held in isolation or quarantine for Covid-19, with breakers of this rule risking a fine of Sh20,000 or six months in prison.
The new regulations also give Mr Kagwe power to designate isolation and treatment centres including private health facilities, hotels and schools.
“…the Cabinet Secretary may depending on the circumstances in an area, whether designated as an infected area or not, designate a private health facility, an educational institution, hotel or any other establishment as he may deem appropriate as a designated facility for purposes of handling and or treatment of Covid-19 patients,” it reads in part.
Establishments designated as isolation centres, but which fail to comply or provide their premises to handle or treat Covid-19 cases, will be deemed to have committed an offence.