Senate bans all physical committee meetings as Covid cases hit Parliament

By Hillary Mageka On Tue, 30 Mar, 2021 15:12 | 3 mins read
Parliament
Parliament building. PHOTO | FILE

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka has banned all physical meetings of the various House committees in a bid to stem the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This means the senators will not set foot in Parliament for committee meetings but will hold such sessions virtually.

In his communication to the House on Tuesday, March 30, Lusaka suspended all physical meetings, including field and county visits until further notice as one of the mitigating measures to minimize human contact and exposure to contain the spread of the pandemic.

“I direct that all meetings of Select Committees of the Senate will only take place virtually pursuant to Standing Order 252 A of the Senate,” Lusaka’s statement read in part.

“There will be no exception to this directive and any requests to hold in-person meetings will not be approved by the speaker,” he added.

Lusaka said that the new measures will complement the containment measures instituted by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday, March 26, which included cessation of movement in five counties, namely, Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Nakuru.

Among other measures instituted to contain the spread of the pandemic, the President, following consultation with the Leadership of Parliament and upon the advice of the National Security Council and the National Emergency Response Committee on COVID-19, called upon the National Assembly and the Senate to effect the above decision to suspend respective Ordinary Sittings in accordance with the respective House’s Standing Orders.

Lusaka told the House on Tuesday that during an extraordinary meeting at State House on Friday; the three arms of government received reports on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country from the National Emergency Response Committee on COVID-19.

At the meeting, Lusaka observed Parliament was one of the institutions identified that had recorded a high infection rate as per the data availed to authorities.

“As a mitigation measure, Parliament, both National Assembly and the Senate were urged to suspend their sittings until such a time when the rate of infection is brought under control,” the speaker told the House, adding that a number of other measures to contain the spread of the pandemic were deliberated upon and a resolution made on the way forward.

“I urge all Committees to fast track any business using the mechanism provided under Standing Order 252 A, particularly Bills and Petitions,” he held.

From the figures given at the meeting, Lusaka said, the country was facing a grave situation that should be taken very seriously by everyone.

“For instance, as of yesterday, Monday, March 29, 2021, the positivity rate hit a shocking 26.6 percent,” he said.

“What this means is that for every 100 people tested, over a quarter or more than 26 were found to be infected by the virus,” he added.

Lusaka said that the Health Cabinet Secretary Kagwe Mutahi had raised the alarm that the health care system is at risk of being overwhelmed by the pandemic leading to a lack of basic supplies such as oxygen.

“Enough has been said about the dire situation of ICU beds. The decision to put sittings on hold is not unique or isolated to our country. Since the virus was declared a pandemic in March 2020, parliaments in all regions of the globe have been affected and their sittings disrupted in one way or the other. For instance, as recent as February 2021 the Parliament of Ghana was suspended for weeks after several members and staff tested positive for the virus,” he held.

Elsewhere, Senate Majority Leader Senator Samuel Poghisio (Poghisio) moved an adjournment motion to further alter the Senate Calendar for the Fifth Session, until Tuesday, May 11t, 2021, as one of the mitigating measures to minimize human contact and exposure and to contain the spread of the pandemic.

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