Open Letter on Implementation of Mandatory Quarantine in the COVID-19 Response in Kenya

We, the undersigned, individuals, individuals under mandatory quarantine, family members of individuals under quarantine, organizations and associations, are representatives of health and human rights civil society and non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations and governance experts. We make reference to our previous advisory dated 28th March 2020 “Advisory Note on Ensuring a Rights-Based Response to Curb the Spread of COVID-19: People – not Messaging – Bring Change” whose issues raised remains unaddressed.

Our previous advisory had, among other concerns, noted that the implementation of the government’s directive of mandatory quarantine and isolation of people affected by COVID-19 was uncoordinated, unplanned and not guided by any policy or guidelines. We issue this open letter and formal request for information in light of concerns raised by individuals currently in mandatory quarantine, their family members and media reports. The media have documented poor management of individuals from the time they landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, their transportation, up to the time they were admitted to various mandatory quarantine facilities. This exposed them to risk of infection, defeating the very essence of safeguarding the greater public and avoiding co-infection.

People in mandatory quarantine have also brought to our direct attention and through open letters and personal videos clear cases of recklessness in their handling, exorbitant costs they have been forced to incur to pay for the quarantine facilities, deplorable living conditions in most quarantine centers, lack of information on any quarantine protocols, and a general lack of any regard to their health, safety and well-being. For the general public, it is not clear how many people are in mandatory quarantine, whether they have all been tested while in quarantine, how many have tested negative or positive and whether the results have been communicated to them. Similar information is unavailable to those in quarantine.

We take note of the fact that quarantine as a public health measure involves the restriction of movement, or separation from the rest of the population, of healthy persons who may have been exposed to the virus, with the objective of monitoring their symptoms and ensuring early detection of cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that mandatory quarantine should be implemented as part of a comprehensive package of public health response and containment measures and, in accordance with Article 3 of the International Health Regulations (2005), be fully respectful of the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons. Click here to read the Open Letter to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health & Chairperson, National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus.

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