Saturday, 9 May 2020

LAWYERS CHALLENGE PRIVATE CORONAVIRUS TESTING


ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has challenged sections of Statutory Instrument (SI) 99 of 2020 which seek to transfer the responsibility of coronavirus testing from government to business.

Represented by Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni legal practitioners, ZLHR wrote to Health minister Obadiah Moyo, challenging the legislation. They argued that the new law was in violation of a standing court order which was issued by the minister’s consent compelling governemnt to roll out COVID-19 testing as well as providing protective equipment to health workers.

“In terms of section 29 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the State is obliged to take all practical measures to ensure the provision of basic, accessible and adequate health services throughout Zimbabwe,” part of the letter read.

“Furthermore, in terms of section 76 (4), the State must, through reasonable measures, within limits of its resources, to ensure the progressive realisation to the right of healthcare.”

ZLHR said government was trying to transfer its responsibility to private citizens.

“The order, as read with your guidelines, is shifting the obligation to acquire the testing kits and testing itself onto the formal commercial and industrial sector, burdening the sector, which is reeling from effects of the lockdown.

“This is contrary to the letter and spirit of the provisions of the Constitution and in breach of the aforesaid court order and must be reversed,” reads the letter.

The law exempts companies which have been operating during the lockdown from testing their workers; a clause which ZLHR says was illogical and discriminatory.

“In other words, those industries which were open since the lockdown or given leave to operate during the lockdown are exempt from the requirement to have their employees tested. This is illogical and discriminatory and does not make any medical sense,” ZLHR wrote.

Moyo, in consenting to the court order, had promised that government would provide adequate test kits at all public hospitals and health facilities.

ZLHR also demanded that government explains why police continues to demand for exemption letters at roadblocks when such is not provided for under level 2 of the lockdown which began on Monday.

“Our client is inundated with calls from employees commuting to work who are being asked to produce letters of authorisation from the police, their employees and from their industry bodies.

“This is cumbersome and an unnecessary inconvenience – there is no requirement in SI 99/20 for the production of such letters.”

Government had been given up to yesterday to respond to the concern or be taken to court. Newsday

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