Kenya’s High Court suspends mandatory COVID vaccination order

Judge suspends government directive pending case hearing filed by a businessman who termed it a gross violation of the constitution.

Kenya has fully vaccinated only 3.2 million people, or 12 percent of the adult population [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Kenya’s High Court has suspended a government order to prevent those who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from accessing services and entering public places such as national parks, bars and restaurants.

The country announced last month it would require people to show vaccination certificates from December 21 to access in-person government services, including hospitals, schools, tax and immigration offices.

But on Tuesday, High Court Judge Antony Mrima suspended the order pending a hearing of the case filed by a businessman who termed the directive “tyrannical” and a gross violation of the constitution.

Campaigners, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have criticised the directive as discriminatory and urged the government to abandon the plan, which also requires visitors from Europe to provide proof of full vaccination.

“While the government has an obligation to protect its people from serious public health threats, the measures must be reasonable and proportional,” HRW said on Tuesday.

“Requiring proof of vaccination to access public services may act as a powerful incentive for people to get vaccinated, but the way it is carried out should also account for the numerous reasons that a person may not be able to receive the vaccine in time,” the rights watchdog added, noting that there was not enough stock to vaccinate all adults before the deadline.

Last October, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the lifting of a nationwide curfew that had been in place since March 2020.

“It is now time to shift our focus from survival to co-existing with the disease,” he said at the time.

Kenya has fully vaccinated only 3.2 million people, or 12 percent of the adult population, according to official figures, well below the government target of 10 million by the end of 2021. Its target is to vaccinate 27 million people by the end of 2022.

But Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe defended the order on Sunday, saying it was the government’s duty to protect the rights of the vaccinated from exposure to infection.

“This is even more critical with the emergence of the Omicron variant. Experts have warned that it is more infectious than previous forms of the virus,” Kagwe said.

Kenya has recorded a total of 256,484 coronavirus cases, of which 5,349 have been fatal.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies