The Public Health Inspectors Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) alleged that there could be possible human rights violations if coronavirus prevention guidelines are not gazette.
President of the PHIUSL speaking to MediaLk.com Upul Rohana said that such a situation may arise when attempting to place suspected Covid-19 patients in quarantine. He urged the Minister of Health to issue the gazette notification pertaining to Coronavirus prevention guidelines as soon as possible. He added that the Union has been requesting for this legal provision from March, since coronavirus began to spread initially.
Rohana said that the legislation used thus far, the 1897 Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Act is only a basic legal provision, adding that the law should be supplemented with gazette notifications, according to the requirements of the times and new disease which emerge. The PHIUSL believes that their professional duties should be secured by law.
The Union has requested for these legal provisions from the Minister of Health on five occasions. They added that four amendments to the document have been sent to the Minister as well. Rohana said the Union has prepared all the necessary documentations, adding that the Minister only needs to place her signature of approval.
“Since the first Covid-19 outbreak in March, we requested the Minister to issue a quarantine and Covid-19 prevention guideline. Similar measures were taken during the plague and hook worm disease outbreaks. Therefore a similar measure can be implemented for Covid-19. Only through such a gazette notification can the legal provisions be determined for a 14 day quarantine period,” Rohana said.
“If there is no legal background for the quarantine procedure, it can result in a human rights violation. Thus far we have mitigated problems, because the public have been largely cooperative with our duties. But in order to control the Covid-19 pandemic, these measures must be taken and the public must be able to adhere to these measures as well,” he said.
“The regulations for face masks are also similar. Decisions to isolate suspected Covid-19 patients cannot be taken without a law to back it. If there is a gazette issued in relation to these, we would be able to perform our duties without any obstruction,” Rohana said.
“When the lockdown was eased a 46 point guideline was issued. Some adhere to these guidelines while some don’t. When actions aren’t taken against those who violate regulations, the ones who adhere to regulations too will not follow the guideline. If we are to expect people to abide by these regulations, they must be issued through a gazette notification. Despite numerous calls for it, this gazette has still not been issued,” The PHIUSL President lamented.
“While the numbers of guests has been limited to 100 to 500 persons, at the same time election rallies are held with the participation of at least 1,500 persons. We cannot carry out our duties within this background,” Rohana complained.
Attempts to contact the Secretary to the Ministry of Health were unsuccessful as a Ministry spokesperson said the Secretary is engaged in continuous meetings, requesting us to call at a later time.