The Speaker’s Hammer was yesterday slammed on the Public Health Amendment Act of 2014, which brings with it a two year term of imprisonment for whoever conceals an Ebola infected patient and other related deadly contagious diseases.
As a matter of emergency, the House of Parliament convened with a shallow number out of its 124 members, to ratify the bill into an act as part of government’s preventive measures in combating the Ebola virus disease.
The 2014 Public Health Amendment Act is an act that has amended the Public Health Ordinance that was promulgated in 1960 for the purpose of health emergencies such as the current Ebola outbreak. However, the archaic law contained fines and penalties that were as low as 5 Pound Sterling for a grave health offence, which, if strictly followed in a modern trend, will not address the prevailing health emergency the country is faced with.
Therefore, in a bid to conform the law to modern times, the office of the Attorney and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo yesterday tabled the Public Health Amendment Act in the Well of Parliament for passage into law; and has clearly stated in its clause, a maximum two year jail term to anyone caught hiding somebody who is believed to be infected with the deadly Ebola virus.
During deliberations, the Attorney General pointed out that the amendment was prudent at this time, taking into effect the fact that at the time the 1960 Ordinance was drafted and passed into law, a disease such as Ebola was not in existence. Therefore, he said, there is a necessity to redo the old legislation to ensure the inclusion of Ebola in a bid to conform with the prevailing situation.
Hon. Agibola Manley-Spaine viewed the amendment as “necessary” thinking of the existence of over a 50 year old regulation. He said that he was particularly happy that the amendment just needed the inclusion of two words “Ebola Disease” which the country is currently grappling with.
But an opposition MP, Hon. Brima Conteh from Bonthe District asserted that the bill should not only include the Ebola Disease as a health emergency, but should equally factor other deadly contagious diseases such as Lasser Fever, which has also claimed lives over the years.
In objection, another opposition MP from Kailahun, Hon. Mustapha Brima suggested that the amendment limits itself to the Ebola Disease, and not anticipate the emergence of another disease that will warrant a Public Health Emergency. He said in the event such a disease that will require a precautionary measure in the area of amendment, then Parliament should be convened to discuss such issue.
However, the Attorney General suggested that it was important for the amendment to include other health emergencies, so that in future, swift actions will be readily taken to put such situation under control.
By Poindexter Sama
Friday August 22, 2014