Benue House of Assembly on Thursday passed the Benue State Highly Infectious Diseases (Emergency, Prevention and Management) Bill, 2020.

This followed a clause by clause consideration of the bill in the committee of the whole chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Christopher Adaji, during plenary.

The Chairman, House Committee on Health and Human Services, Mr Joseph Okponya, led the debate on the bill.

He explained that the ability to identify and respond to outbreaks promptly and thereby limiting their impact rest on the availability and implementation of appropriate laws.

“The import of this bill is to prevent and contain the spread of highly infectious diseases such as coronavirus which constitutes a serious and imminent threat to the public health of the people of Benue State.

“The bill issues regulations and guidelines to residents of the state whose lives are threatened daily by the deadly pandemic and inform them of the necessity of screening, testing and isolation.

“It equally encapsulates restriction of movements of people, events, gatherings and commercial activities as well as prohibits hoarding of foodstuffs, drugs and other essential supplies.

“Furthermore, the bill imposes restrictions on transportation, storage and disposal of COVID-19 victims and cautions against the transmission and spread of false information regarding the pandemic.

“It also aims at empowering and providing legal backing to the initiatives, activities and efforts of the Chief Executive Officer of the state, which is the Governor as well as the frontline health workers and practitioners that are directly involved in combating infectious diseases,” Okponya explained.

He said the bill, when assented to by the governor, would empower the state governor to direct the restriction of movements within, into or out of the local health area, particularly, the movement of persons, vehicles and other means of transportation.

The lawmaker said the governor would also be empowered to establish health service posts in the entries and exits of Benue or any other parts within the state for the purpose of preventing or curbing the spread of highly infectious diseases.

“The passage of the bill would further enable the state governor to provide isolation apartment or quarters for health care workers involved in managing highly infectious disease outbreak in accordance with global best practices, among others,” Okponya said.

After various contributions from members in favour of the bill, Adaji invited the clerk of the House, Mr Terese Agena, to read it for the third time.