Egypt's parliament to discuss new law on fighting epidemics and pandemics

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 13 Nov 2021

Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives – will conduct discussions this week on a number of laws and foreign agreements.

A general view of the Egyptian parliament session. Reuters
A general view of the Egyptian parliament session. Reuters

On Sunday, the House will discuss a foreign agreement on Japan's financial contribution to build a number of outpatient clinics that will provide children with necessary medical services.

The House will also continue debating amendments to Law (67/2010) regulating the participation of the private sector in implementing infrastructure, service and public utilities projects.

The amendments allow the state's administrative system to more easily award contracts to the private sector to implement most infrastructure projects in areas of transport, electricity, communications, information technology, water, sanitary draining and education.

The House will also start discussing the articles of the new General Unified Finance law, which aims to upgrade the process of drafting the state's annual budget through merging two pieces of legislation regulating the annual state budget and government accounting into a single bill.

The law was provisionally approved by the House two weeks ago, but due to the absence of Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait, the discussion of the articles of the law was postponed.

On Tuesday, the House will start debate on a new government-drafted law aiming to impose procedures and measures necessary to fight the spread of epidemics and pandemics.

A report by the House's Health Committee said the draft law allows the prime minister to declare measures necessary to combat epidemics and pandemics. "This means that the prime minister will be allowed to declare a state of pandemic emergency, through which he will invoke immediate procedures and measures necessary to preserve the health and lives of citizens," said the report, indicating that "the powers given to the prime minister will be for a limited period of time, mostly for one year, subject to renewal."

The first article of the draft law allows the prime minister to take as many as 25 measures necessary to fight the spread of epidemics and pandemics. "These include imposing restrictions for a certain time frame on the freedom of people to move or to be present in certain areas or throughout the country," said the report, adding that "the prime minister will be also authorized to suspend work for a specified period of time, partially or completely, in ministries, government departments and agencies, local administration units, public authorities, and public sector companies," said the report. "The prime minister can also suspend study for a specified period of time, partially or completely, in schools, nurseries, universities, institutes, any other education institutions, and any gatherings of students," it added.

The draft law gives the prime minister the power of closing and reopening the above-mentioned institutions and businesses. "Also on the list are the prime minister's right to prohibit all public meetings, processions, demonstrations, celebrations and all other forms of gatherings, as long as these help stem the spread of pandemics and epidemics," said the report, adding that "if necessary the prime minister can also prohibit exhibitions, cultural events and festivals, and close cinemas and theatres."

The preventive and protective measures allocated to the prime minister under the new bill also include suspending sport activities, and closing clubs, youth centres, gymnasiums and health clubs.

The prime minister can also order places of worship to be closed. Mass transportation, public or private, can also be halted at the discretion of the prime minister.

Under the draft law, citizens will be forced to abide by all the protective measures declared by health authorities, such as wearing face masks and receiving vaccines.

The House's Health Committee indicated that the above-mentioned draft law is important in order to give the government the tools necessary to contain epidemics and pandemics that might threaten the health and lives of citizens. "The draft law also goes in line with the constitution which gives the government the right to take all the powers necessary to preserve the lives of citizens and help them live a safe life," said the report.

Article Five of the draft law states that "those who incite citizens to violate or disrupt the measures and procedures to be taken by the prime minister under this law will be sentenced to one year in jail and a financial fine of no more than EGP 10,000."

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