MOMBASA, Kenya, May 5 – Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has made a u-turn on a proclamation he made Saturday saying an estimated 28,000 residents in Mombasa’s Old Town will undergo mandatory COVID-19 tests.
Faced with a backlash from residents and a section of leaders in the coastal city, Joho who joined a voluntary public mass testing exercise accompanied by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and Mombasa County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo on Monday said no resident will be forced to undergo the tests.
Joho appealed to the residents to support efforts to contain the virus saying the national government was acting in the interest of its citizens.
“We’ll not let you down. If you are positive, we will support you,” said Joho.
Kitiyo said promised to address concerns raised by residents especially regarding conditions in quarantine centres.
“Do not be afraid of quarantine, the public health officials will look from where you come from before you are taken to quarantine. Our facilities are also friendly,” he said.
Nassir on his part noted some Old Town residents had threatened doctors who were testing locals.
“Threats will not work in Old Town. Today there are people who were threatening to pelt stones to doctors who are involved in mass testing in the area. We have all agreed, that if you do not want to be tested, stay away,” said Nassir said during a visit to Likoni.
There was an uproar in Mombasa after Joho, Nassir and Kitiyo on Saturday threatened to force Old Town residents to undergo forceful testing for COVID-19.
As of Monday, Mombasa had recorded a total of 158 positive cases, making the second most after county after Nairobi.
Old Town area bears the heaviest burden of COVID-19 cases in Mombasa commanding an assailable lead of 48 positive cases and seven deaths.
A total of 13 people have succumbed to COVID-19 in Mombasa out of 24 deaths recorded nationwide.
Since Saturday, when Joho threatened to force Old Town residents to undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19, the residents have been up in arms demanding that he leads from the front.
“The governor cannot force us to be tested. He should come here and lead from the front,” a resident in Old Town said.
Majority of the Old Town residents do not want to be tested because of the stigma associated with COVID-19 in the region and forceful quarantine for those suspected to have contacted COVID-19.
Residents cited an incident where a family of renowned Islamic scholar and popular herbalist Sheriff Mwinyi Karama, who died after coming into contact with a COVID-19 patient, was mistreated in the hands of law enforcers.
The family of 17, including house helps, was forced into quarantine at Port Reitz Hospital, and upon completing 14-day isolation period was slapped with a Sh450,000 bill.
Nyali MP Mohammed Ali and Mombasa senator Mohammed Faki are some of the leaders in the region to have opposed the forceful mass testing, saying residents need to be counselled before they are tested.