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Kenya steps up coronavirus preparedness after uproar

NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 28 – Kenya has scaled up its preparedness for coronavirus, following increased risks of spreading into the country, a day after Nigeria confirmed the first case in Sub Saharan Africa.

Consequently, President Uhuru Kenyatta has issued an Executive Order establishing a national emergency response committee to be chaired by newly-appointed Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, with members drawn from other ministries, to evaluate and enhance preparedness by equipping all Level Five Hospitals by mid next month.

“The committee shall coordinate Kenya’s preparedness, prevention and response to the threat of the coronavirus disease,” reads a section of the Executive Order 2.

Their mandate, the president said, also extends to “formulating, enforcing and reviewing of processes and requirements that regulate the entry into Kenya of any persons or class of persons known or suspected to have traveled from a Coronavirus affected area.”

He also wants a National isolation and treatment facility set up at Mbagathi Hospital completed in a week’s time in time to receive patients, in the event coronavirus case or cases are confirmed in the country.

The order follows uproar from Kenyans after the government announced that it does not intend to ban flights from China, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak that has killed more than 2000 people, and infected over 80,000 others.

The disease is fast spreading globally, with Iran now reporting 26 deaths, the highest outside China since the outbreak in Wuhan province in December last year.

It is a move that comes a day after 239 Chinese nationals were allowed in the country, causing uproar from Kenyans.

Already, the High Court has ordered the suspension of flights from China for 10 days, as it evaluates a case filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Friday.

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China Southern Airlines that landed at JKIA with 239 passengers has since suspended flights until further notice.

“Due to the decreasing volume of passenger flow, China Southern Airlines has made necessary adjustments by suspending flights connecting Guangzhou, Changsha and Nairobi until further notice,” the airline said in a statement.

On Friday, Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua accused the government of laxity in handling the coronavirus epidemic that has sent shockwaves across the world.

“We join all Kenyans who have expressed shock at the recklessness in which the Government is handling the growing public health crisis posed by the coronavirus,” she asserted, “We do not see any evidence or preparedness, or a government actively involved in protecting its citizen from potential harm.”

High Court has since suspended flights from China and directed the 239 passengers who arrived on Thursday to be quarantined at a KDF facility.

The Government had asked them to remain indoors for 2 weeks, in a self-quarantine measure, but the court-ordered Friday they be rounded up and taken to a military health facility until declared safe from the epidemic.

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