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A Lab technician at one of the hospitals in Nairobi. Kenya had recorded four deaths and 122 positive cases of coronavirus by April 3, 2020.

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Health Ministry says talks underway to avert looming strike by health workers

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14- The government says it is in talks with union officials representing health workers to avert a looking strike set for Monday, in what is likely to paralyse operations in hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health workers had threatened that they will down tools from Monday unless their grievances are addressed.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi said the Ministry is aware of the critical role the health workers play during coronavirus pandemic, and assured that their concerns will be prioritised.

“Let me reiterate by saying and we have said it again that healthcare workers are basically the heartbeat of this response and so we are in discussions and negotiations with them to evaluate their concerns and to be able to come to a middle ground where we can actually move forward with this,” Mwangangi told a news conference Thursday.

Health workers have remained adamant that their next week strike is still on, due to lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some, the union officials say have been purchasing their own equipment.

COVID-19 infections in Kenya rose to 737 cases, with 42 fatalities.

 Other unions within the crucial sector say despite the government declarations that all is well, they have remained vulnerable and exposed to the disease. Mwangangi however, assured that they had been supplied with equipment.

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“As we continue with discussions, one of the issues we are trying to address is the issue of PPEs. Other grievances on the table are being discussed and we are in negotiations to avert any strike on Monday,” said Mwangangi.

Those set to down their tools are nurses, clinical officers, medical lab technicians, pharmacy technicians, nutritionist and other cadres of health.

She said a 7-year-old and a 79 are among 21 new infections. Four were truck drivers who were tested at the border town of Namanga.

12 cases were from Mombasa, 4 from Kajiado, 1 from Uasin Gishu, and four from Nairobi, with Kibera and Eastleigh having two each.

“We would like to thank all our able surveillance teams and health care workers as well as the multi-agency team that has come forth to fight the virus within our communities. They have identified high risk areas,” she said.

The number of recoveries from COVID-19 rose to 284 after 3 people were discharged from hospital.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the virus is here to stay, signalling the need for nations to start re-opening.

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