Government officials are on high alert following the discovery of the first case of Coronavirus in Sub-Saharan Africa. And now, with the Ministry of Health taking measures to ensure the nation is prepared, the relevant bodies are keen to ensure information is carefully managed to avoid the spread of alarmist content that would cause unnecessary panic.
According to a recent report by the BBC, Kenyan authorities have enhanced the monitoring of social media and other digital platforms to check the spread of misinformation about coronavirus.
Government spokesman Cyrus Oguna said detectives from the cybercrime unit are analyzing content shared online for investigation, arrest, and prosecution of those culpable.
Kenya’s Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes law criminalizes the sharing of false, misleading or fictitious information and stipulates a fine of 5m Kenyan shillings ($50,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.
Nigeria on Friday (28.02.2020) has announced the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a report on Capital News, the case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement on Twitter.
Italy has become a hotbed of infection in recent days, with the largest outbreak in Europe, as earlier reported on The Sauce.
According to Aljazeera, “the low number of cases across Africa, which has close economic ties with China, has puzzled health specialists and raised questions about authorities’ capabilities to detect the virus.” And now fears have heightened in Kenya as the government is deemed unprepared should there be a few cases of the coronavirus. In response to widespread fears, mandatory screening has been implemented at all points of entry to minimize the risk of spreading the disease as directed by the Ministry of Health.
K.O.T has previously expressed their frustrations with the government, asking that more measures be put in place. More importantly, many are skeptical that an airplane of 239 Chinese nationals that landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday (26.02.2020), would place themselves in quarantine for 14 days, as advised by the government.
But it seems that the self-quarantine is not enough of a measure to stop the disease of the deadly virus. According to Daily Nation, one of the 239 is suspected of having the virus.
The report noted Mr. Qi Xiao Li, 35, who traveled from China’s Anhui Province, had struck a deal with a colleague who lives in the estate to help him stay in isolation for 14 days as ordered by Kenya’s Health Ministry and the Chinese embassy in Nairobi.
“He is said to have been brought to the estate from the (Jomo Kenyatta International) Airport by an Uber taxi wearing a face mask and ushered in by his colleagues, all in masks,” said Mr. Lucas Mwove, the Chief Officer, Public Health Machakos County.
Tenants of Sidai Estate in Athi River protested and asked that strict measures be put in place to ensure Mr. Li adheres to the terms of self-quarantine for 14 days.
In the aftermath of the public outcry for stricter measures, the government has also insisted that heightened fears of the deadly virus should not lead Kenyans to discriminate against Chinese nationals within Kenya.
A report on Capital News noted in Kenya, there have been reports of harassment of Chinese nationals, after videos emerged showing members of the public charging against them in different parts of the country, with some asking if they are suffering from the virus.
“If this is allowed to continue and their people decide to retaliate on the other side, then we will have more to lose,” said Dr. Karanja Kibicho, Interior Principal Secretary when answering questions from a Parliamentary Health Committee on Wednesday (4.03.2020).
Kibicho said that if such a trend continues, it might put more than 3,000 Kenyans living in China at risk if they decide to retaliate. “We are worried as Interior because of what we are seeing now. Some Kenyans are mishandling Chinese nationals because of this coronavirus. I want to ask Kenyans to be careful because not all Chinese are sick,” he said.
Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng has also advised against discriminating nationals from the country over the epidemic.
The Coronavirus is believed to have started in a wet market that sold dead and live animals in Wuhan, China. According to reports more than 93,000 people are known to be infected, nearly 3,200 deaths have been recorded.