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COVID-19: Concealing COVID-19 status is imprisonable offence – Abimbola

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The immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice for Oyo State, Oluseun Abimbola, has disclosed that deliberate concealment of cases of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, is liable to prosecution.

Mr Abimbola, who made this known while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria in Ibadan on Tuesday, said such an instance, if proven, would be an offence contrary to the Public Health Law Cap 135 Laws of Oyo State 2000.

According to him, the laws on Notifiable Infectious Diseases, NID, provide, amongst other things, that you are under legal obligation to notify appropriate authorities if you notice your co-habitant is suffering from an infectious disease.

“Once they are aware of the infectious disease in the house, the head of the family or the landlord, is obligated to report to relevant authorities.

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“Failure to do so becomes a criminal offence, although they may lie about it,” he said.

Mr Abimbola noted that the same obligation would be expected of medical practitioners.

“If a medical practitioner is aware that his patient is suffering from a notifiable infectious disease, he has an obligation to notify the appropriate medical office.

“If he fails to give notice, then it becomes a criminal offence,” he said.

The former attorney-general, however, said COVID-19, being a new disease, was not listed as a notifiable infectious disease as contained in the Public Health Law.

He, however, identified pneumonia, one of the symptoms of COVID-19, as being included in the law, which was first promulgated in 1957 and popular among the then Western states.

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“Anyway, it is an argument for the defence,” he said.

Mr Abimbola said it would be criminal for anyone to deliberately take actions capable of spreading any infectious disease whatsoever.

“It is an offence, if any person, who while suffering from a notifiable infectious disease, or a medical person in charge of any patient with him, deliberately takes steps that can spread the disease.

“For instance, he is subject to criminal prosecution, if you can prove that he, being aware of his infectious disease, boards a public transport, thus endangering the lives of other people.

“Indeed, there are provisions that say when you board a public conveyance, without notifying the driver or the person in charge, of your notifiable infectious disease, you are liable to prosecution,” he said.

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According to him, such an instance is, however, subject to being able to prove that the person was aware of his medical status, yet concealing it with an ulterior motive to spread it.

“It will be for the defence to claim the person was not aware of being a patient of the infectious disease,” Mr Abimbola said.

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