A government decision prohibiting persons who have not been properly vaccinated against COVID-19 from accessing services and entering public locations such as national parks, pubs, and restaurants has been suspended by Kenya’s High Court.
Last month, the country declared that beginning December 21, people will be required to show immunisation certificates in order to access in-person government services such as hospitals, schools, tax and immigration offices.
However, High Court Judge Antony Mrima delayed the order on Tuesday, awaiting the outcome of a complaint filed by a businessman who called the direction “tyrannical” and a “gross violation of the constitution.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other campaigners have slammed the regulation as discriminatory and urged the government to scrap the plan, which also demands tourists from Europe to show proof of full immunisation.
“While the government has an obligation to protect its citizens from major public health dangers, the actions taken must be reasonable and proportionate,” Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
“While requiring proof of vaccination to access public services may act as a powerful incentive for people to get vaccinated, the manner in which it is implemented should also account for the numerous reasons why a person may not be able to receive the vaccine in time,” the rights watchdog added, noting that there was insufficient stock to vaccinate all adults before the deadline.
President Uhuru Kenyatta stated in October that a statewide curfew that had been in effect since March 2020 would be lifted.
He observed at the time, “It’s time to shift our attention from survival to co-existence with the sickness.”
According to official estimates, Kenya has fully vaccinated only 3.2 million people, or 12 percent of the adult population, falling far short of the government’s objective of 10 million by the end of 2021. By the end of 2022, it hopes to have vaccinated 27 million people.
On Sunday, however, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe defended the directive, saying it was the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of the vaccinated from infection.
“With the emergence of the Omicron version, this is even more crucial. Experts have warned that this strain of the virus is more contagious than previous strains,” Kagwe said.
Kenya has seen a total of 256,484 coronavirus cases, with 5,349 of them resulting in death.