Kenya: High Court Orders Refund for People Forced Into Quarantine

3 December 2020

The High Court has ordered the government to refund money it collected from people who were made to go into mandatory quarantine in Covid-19 isolation centres.

Justice James Makau Thursday said that it was illegal and contrary to the Public Health Act for the government to force people into quarantine without obtaining an order from a magistrate's court as required by law.

While ruling on a petition filed by human rights activist Okiya Omtatah, the judge said the Ministry of Health violated the rights of those it forced into quarantine for public health protection.

The court flagged the government's decision to charge those quarantined as an unlawful way to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, insisting that the State was supposed to foot the bills.

Cost of confinement

Mr Omtatah moved to court after the government decided to force people ordered into compulsory quarantine centres to meet the costs of their own confinement.

He told court that Section 27 of the Public Health Act provides that such mandatory isolation must be at the cost of the government.

This section of law provides for isolation and detention on a certificate signed by a medical officer of health and an order of a magistrate for persons who may be infected with a notifiable infectious disease.

"There is no power under Section 27 for the government to require persons whom it believes are not accommodated in such a manner as is adequate to guard against the spread of the disease to meet some or any of the costs of providing the required adequate accommodation," said Mr Omtatah.

He further argued that Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe exceeded his powers to make regulations under Section 36 of the Public Health Act by purporting to create criminal offences and penalties.

"The government broke the law by failing to ensure the people it had forced into quarantine were adequately accommodated," he said.

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