Everyone accessing the precincts of Parliament, including MPs, will now undergo body temperature checks as a precautionary measure against spread of the highly contagious Covid-19 disease that is ravaging the world.
National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai said the coronavirus tests will be conducted by officers from the Ministry of Health at designated tents right at the main entry to Parliament Buildings.
Mr Sialai noted that the decision, especially with three confirmed cases of the virus in Kenya, follows a meeting of Parliament leaders and top officials from the ministry on preventive measures.
“This is just an initial test. If it is discovered that some have abnormal temperatures, we will advise them to seek medical attention in established health facilities,” he said.
On Friday, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his Senate colleague Kenneth Lusaka issued guidelines on preventing infections in a joint memo to all the 416 MPs in the National Assembly and Senate and staff.
Speaker Muturi is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) that is in charge of the welfare of MPs and staff at Parliament.
He and Mr Lusaka suspended all foreign travel for the parliamentarians and staff.
“It has, therefore, become necessary that in order to prevent, and where necessary, contain and mitigate against the spread of the corona virus, MPs and staff are encouraged to observe the preventive measures by the Ministry of Health as required to be undertaken by every individual,” the statement by the two Speakers stated.
The guidelines they issued are to remain in force for 30 days “or until further notice” and will see conferences, retreats, workshops and other similar events held within the precincts of Parliament in Nairobi.
The MPs were also encouraged to defer all committee sittings and visits outside the precincts of Parliament.
Visits to Parliament by schools, colleges and other groups also stand suspended.
On Monday, Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo said he will seek guidance from Speaker Muturi on whether to adjourn House sittings indefinitely after it became apparent that only Parliament will operate normally, unlike the Executive and the Judiciary.
“We will be asking Muturi to allow us to table a motion to adjourn sittings until the disease is contained,” said Mr Maanzo.
The National Assembly is set to take a short recess from March 19 to April 7.
Clerks Sialai and Jeremiah Nyegenye (Senate) and Director-General -- Parliamentary Joint Service Clement Nyandiere have been directed to take all the necessary measures to implement the guidelines.
The directive will not spare official engagements that had been scheduled and were to take place within the precincts of Parliament in the next 30 days as they “shall forthwith stand deferred until further notice".
The Speakers also noted that entry and movement of any visitors into Parliament during this period shall be restricted.
On March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 a health pandemic and on March 13, Kenya’s Health Ministry announced that it had confirmed the first case of the virus.
According to ''The Guardian'', a United Kingdom (UK) online publication, worldwide infections from the coronavirus have grown to more than 167,860.
In China, the cases stood at 80,860 as of Monday as per the information from the Chinese National Health Commission.
The publication further noted that deaths outside China stood at 3,241, while deaths inside China had risen to 3,208 by Monday.
Italy is worst hit after China as it continues to report a rise in new cases daily, with ''The Guardian'' reporting nearly 25,000 confirmed infections and more than 1,800 deaths.
The coronavirus outbreak was first announced in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Infected people have a fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, difficulty breathing and organ failure in severe cases.