Kibicho: Why we haven’t isolated 239 passengers from China despite knowing where they are

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 4 Mar, 2020 17:11 | 2 mins read
A file photo of Interior Principal Secretary (PS) Karanja Kibicho. [PHOTO | K24 DIGITAL]
Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho. PHOTO/COURTESY
A file photo of Interior Principal Secretary (PS) Karanja Kibicho. [PHOTO | K24 DIGITAL]

By Daniel Kariuki and Brian Okoth

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho says the Government is yet to track down and isolate 239 passengers who arrived in Kenya last Wednesday (February 26) aboard a Chinese plane because “the 239 people haven’t exhibited coronavirus symptoms, hence no need to quarantine them”.

On Friday, February 28, High Court judge James Makau ordered Interior minister, Fred Matiang’I, and former Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki to trace all the 239 passengers who arrived in Kenya via the JKIA on Wednesday, February 26, and quarantine them at a KDF facility.

The 239 passengers travelled to Kenya in China Southern Airlines plane.

Justice Makau issued the order after two doctors filed a petition in court on February 28 that sought to have China flights barred from entering the country in the wake of coronavirus concerns.

In the application, Joseph Mwendwa Mzalendo and Cyprian Mwirabua sought to have the Kenyan Government blocked from allowing into the country passengers from China or other countries that have been hit hard by coronavirus.

And while appearing before the National Assembly and Senate Joint Committee on Health, Interior PS Karanja Kibicho said, yes, the Government had already known where the 239 China Southern Airlines passengers were living in the country, “but couldn’t track down and isolate them at a KDF facility as ordered by the courts because they haven’t exhibited any symptoms of the dreaded coronavirus”. 

“I can confirm before this committee that we have contacts of all the 239 passengers,” said Kibicho.

Asked about the measures the Government had put in place at the JKIA before allowing the 239 passengers into the country last Wednesday, the PS said: “Every person entering this country, is undergoing a thorough screening exercise. Upon arrival, their data is collected and sent to the Ministry of Health, which, thereafter, issues an order okaying or rejecting the passengers’ clearance. That is done at all airports in Kenya.”

The PS appeared before the Committee alongside Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

The minister said the Government has taken appropriate measures to ensure Kenyans are not exposed to coronavirus.

According to Macharia, one of the key measures taken is stopping direct flights to and from Kenya to China, Iran and North Italy cities of Verona and Milan.

“We’ll continue to review our travel policies. Currently, we are deliberating on whether we should suspend flights to Rome and Italy as a whole,” said Macharia.

“We are also keenly monitoring the movement of ships into the country. Actually, the number of foreign vessels docking in Kenya have reduced. One of the countries which we have banned vessels from, is China,” added the minister.

Another notable measure the Government has taken to protect Kenya from the coronavirus outbreak is setting up isolation wards in all the Level 5 hospitals across the country, said PS Kibicho.

On Tuesday, March 3, the joint Health Committee co-chaired by Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege and Trans-Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito was forced to adjourn after members insisted that Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, his Health counterpart Mutahi Kagwe and Transport boss James Macharia must present themselves in person.

The joint committee was keen to ascertain if the country had put in place measures to prevent the importation of coronavirus into the country through ports of entry.

Matiang’i and Macharia have, in the recent past, come under razor-sharp criticism for allowing passengers from hard-hit countries like China get into the country.