SADC-PF GUIDELINES FOR SADC NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS TO ADDRESS THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK Featured
The SADC Parliamentary Forum considers that the COVID-19 Outbreak across the SADC region represents a significant threat to public health. Whilst all SADC countries are involved in addressing the pandemic, the SADC-PF recommends that national Parliaments continue to play a leading role in consolidating legal and policy frameworks that can assist to mitigate the outbreak in both the short and long term. In this respect, the SADC-PF encourages SADC national Parliaments and Governments to share experiences with one another, and conduct peer learning on policy responses, as they embark to address the COVID-19 situation prevailing in their country.
The SADC-PF recommends that the responses by each national Parliament should be evidence-based, proportionate to the urgency of the situation, and in conformity with human rights applicable. At all times, a careful balancing exercise should be conducted of the urgency of the COVID-19 situation at the domestic level and the need to protect fundamental human rights of individuals who may be quarantined, confined or under curfew, depending on the domestic circumstances. The SADC-PF is confident that SADC Parliamentarians will be able to embrace their leadership roles in this time of crisis management and ensure that the SADC region, and by extension the world, recover quickly from the pandemic.
The Forum is making arrangements to share COVID-19 related legislation adopted by Member Parliaments and Member States on its website (http://sadcpf.org) in view of promoting information sharing.
In line with public health principles contained in Model Laws developed by the Forum, the following pointers are recommended for the consideration of national Parliaments as they turn to address the COVID-19 outbreak:
- The objective to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and fulfil Sustainable Development Goal 3 relating to health and well being for all, should remain overarching guiding principles to inform policy and legislative responses across SADC;
- Whilst priority should be given to mobilise resources to address the COVID-19 outbreak, access to other equally essential health care services should not be mitigated, eg Sexual and Reproductive Health services, essential surgical interventions, treatments for chronic illnesses, screenings for cervical cancer, provision of ARVs for treatment of HIV/AIDS etc. Redeployment of medical staff to fight the COVID-19pandemic should also ensure that there are no lapses in delivery of essential health care services;
- A national monitoring surveillance team should be set up which includes parliamentarians to monitor the daily COVID-19 situation;
- The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the treatment of other illnesses should be assessed scientifically in view of preventing a collapse of public health systems;
- In consultation with central banks, banking charges and levies should be removed to facilitate withdrawal of cash at the nearest ATMs, and promote cashless banking systems which avoid handling of cash by the public;
- Parliaments may consider adopting targeted legislation for the creation of special funds to assist most vulnerable communities and key populations, and to establish confinement/curfew conditions which are human rights-friendly and proportionate to the urgency of the situation;
- Favourable trade agreements should be negotiated with partner countries to ensure that there is continuity in the availability of staple food supplies and commodities;
- Intellectual property frameworks should be reviewed such that essential medicines, drugs and vaccines to combat COVID-19 are available to the public readily at affordable prices or with subsidies from the State;
- A special COVID-19 tax regime may be instilled for a determined period to encourage enterprises and individuals to address the economic crisis, for instance by removing VAT on certain products, giving rebates, reducing income tax for certain economic sectors in difficulty etc;
- Policy frameworks should be re-engineered through the budget to reinforce the public health system and ensure that it can be sustained in the long term to address the pandemic;
- The long-term financial, industrial, social and environmental impact of the pandemic should be assessed for each country and cooperation established between SADC countries in view of supporting one another and opening new food and medical supply lines where necessary.
The SADC-PF encourages its Member Parliaments to continue promoting the values and guiding principles of the Forum in such trying times, including respect for human rights, the rule of law and constitutionalism.
SADC Parliamentary Forum 25th March 2020