UPND Lukulu East member of parliament Dr Christopher Kalila has called for the closure of Parliament and for all MPs to be quarantined, following the rising number of COVID-19 cases at the National Assembly.

In an interview, Dr Kalila, who is also UPND health and nutrition chairman, bemoaned the lack of information being given out to MPs on the rising cases at the National Assembly.

“My view is that the public health guidelines are extremely very clear; for every positive case, there are contacts and those contacts must immediately go into quarantine but it is not happening at Parliament. So, that is questionable. Why it is like that? Because it is not rumours, it was a press statement that was given yesterday that three Parliamentarians actually tested positive and I am assuming that they are in quarantine wherever they are. The first point of concern I have is that why should the Parliamentary management have to issue a press statement before they even tell us?” Dr Kalila wondered.

“Of course it was a rumour from other people talking but as a member of parliament, we were all constrained in raising alarm because it was not yet mentioned to us. These days, people always say ‘where is the evidence?’, but now that the management itself has given out the statement to that effect, it calls for concern that why [aren’t] all of us members of parliament not going for quarantine? Because we have been exposed to those colleagues of ours who have not been named of course but the fact that they are MPs, we have been mixing with them. So we have all been exposed and at best, we need to know whether we are positive or not, which means we need to test! All of us should be tested. Currently, the rules are that if you are a contact, you need to go for 14 days in isolation but that has not happened.”

He insisted that keeping Parliament open was a public health risk.

“Some of us don’t stay at the motel, we stay at home so we go and come back home. Every visit I take to Parliament, when I come back I am exposing my family. Ideally, I should have been in quarantine right now as I speak to you. All of us including, Mr Speaker, the Deputy Speakers, everyone, we are at risk and we have been exposed and we must be in quarantine. There are also rumours and speculations that two people have died and that was not reported to you guys, I don’t know why but you must have heard of it. The fact that there are two deaths and those 19 cases as of two to three days ago, today there can be more. So, there is transmission happening there at the National Assembly and spiraled out of control and the right way is to send all of us into quarantine. All of us from Parliament must walk into quarantine centers, to protect public health,” he said.

“The question is those three MPs, which contacts did they give? Obviously they should have given us who have been interacting with them but why are we scot free and walking around freely? People are insisting that because of social distancing and masking, they are insisting that we can continue with the new normal but tell me how effective are these measures? We were masking there in Parliament but look where we are? Remember WHO have also said it is airborne disease, so the moment you just take out your mask and you are talking, there you are breathing from the air. For me it is a straightforward thing close, quarantine and test to protect citizens.”

Dr Kalila called on the Ministry of Health to be consistent and hold regular COVID-19 updates.

“Briefings once a week were good because they were always giving out information to the public. One of the reasons that people are taking it lightly is that they have stopped getting the messages as they used to. For human beings they tend to think that maybe this thing is over that is why some people even question. So, those messages should be brought back at a time it is heightened like this, in fact it should be daily,” said Dr Kalila.