The Senate yesterday considered a critical bill that would see to the eventual repeal of the obsolete Quarantine Act enacted in 1926, and help Nigeria deal with any impending outbreak of infectious and contagious diseases in the future.
This was contained in a statement issued yesterday by Ezrel Tabiowo, Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, stressing that the Health Emergency Bill, 2021, which scaled Second Reading on the floor during plenary, also does not make it mandatory for any Nigerian to be subjected to forced immunisation under the proposed legislation.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), said the piece of legislation under consideration was informed by the challenges that confronted the nation regarding the coordination of national response measures to combat the dreadful coronavirus crisis.
According to the lawmaker, the Executive in an attempt to scale the loopholes created as a result of the extant archaic Quarantine legislation, was compelled “to embark on a litany of subsidiary legislations to deal with certain exigencies” at the time.
Utazi stated that the Health Emergency Bill, when passed and signed into law, would establish an updated comprehensive legal and administrative framework for handling outbreaks of infectious and contagious diseases that portends major threat to public health safety within Nigeria, or are likely to be transmitted into Nigeria or outside Nigerian borders, if quarantine or other emergency health measures are not taken by appropriate authorities to control spread or infection rate.
He, specifically, emphasized that the Bill provides the legal and institutional framework for imposition and implementation of mandatory seIf-isolation and quarantine of infected persons, introduction of movement restrictions, and adoption of appropriate safety and welfare measures at or during the outbreak of dangerous contagious diseases.
He said, “it provides statutory recognition for power of the President, and in appropriate circumstances, the Governor, to declare any place or area ”an infected area” and accordingly issue appropriate regulations or directives to prevent the spread of such infections in Nigeria, and the transmission from Nigeria to any other part of the world.
“It also provide for funding and accountability mechanisms for containment measures introduced at the outbreak or during disease epidemics and pandemics.
“This Bill further prescribes offences and appropriate punishments for violations and contraventions associated with the control and management of dangerous contagious disease epidemics or pandemics.”
The lawmaker added that the Bill in repealing the archaic Quarantine Act of 1926 and under schedules l and II, expands the scope and interpretation of dangerous infectious diseases beyond what is contained in the Quarantine Act.