No evacuation for Kenyan students trapped in China: Kagwe

By Bernard Gitau On Thu, 12 Mar, 2020 09:58 | 3 mins read
Four more people have died of the disease, bringing Kenya’s coronavirus-related deaths to 21. [PHOTO | FILE]
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe. PHOTO | FILE

The Kenyan students who are stranded in Wuhan City — the epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic — will not be evacuated from China, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has said.

Instead, the national government will provide counselling services to the students’ parents.

Speaking on Wednesday when he appeared before the joint Senate and National Assembly Health Committees, Health CS Kagwe said that it’s in the country’s “national interest” to manage the students in Wuhan city.

The deadly coronavirus has claimed more than 4,200 lives and left millions quarantined globally.

“We are dealing with a moving target and it will not be possible to evacuate everyone in regions affected. We have over 1,500 people in Verona, Italy which is the new epicentre of the coronavirus,” said Kagwe on Wednesday.

He added: “We are going to commence counselling to the parents of the 90 students who are in quarantine in Wuhan, China, and we acknowledge the miscommunication with them but the issue is under control,” he said.

Kagwe also dismissed as alarmist claims that a Kenya Airways plane from Rome, Italy had landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Tuesday.

He cautioned the public to be wary of such social posting which have no basis.

At the same time, the CS said the government has already disbursed Sh10 million to the students to cater for their welfare.

Kagwe allayed fears of China posing a coronavirus threat to Kenya, saying Europe, where the number of those infected in soaring is the biggest threat.

But parents with students in China, who attended the session, pleaded with the government to evacuate their children before they are infected with the deadly respiratory flu.

Sylivia Wanjiru, a mother of one students, said some of them who are pregnant are not getting prenatal services.

“They are stressed, some are having foetal distress, forced labour and it’s really taking toll on them. We should bring them home and they will be ambassadors to disseminate correct information on the virus,” she said.

Wanjiru added there are some who with medical conditions are unable to access medication because of the lockdown will likely continue until May, adding that they have been quarantined for 60 days.

On the country’s preparedness, Kagwe said the National Treasury has released Sh300 million for monitoring, testing and management to keep the coronavirus at bay.

But he urged the public to be vigilant as self-quarantine is the only way to fight it.

“Self-quarantine is the only way we can be able to address this coronavirus, we localise it ‘Kagwe Nyumbani’ to resonate with Kenyans,” he said.

Heightened surveillance Kagwe directed all level four hospitals across the country set up have isolation wings by Sunday.

“We have heightened surveillance in all four entry points and so far we have recorded 270 alerts but have turned negative,” he added.

The country, according to Kagwe, has a World Health Organisation (WHO) lab to test the virus in Influenza Centre, Kemri and other designated labs.

“The country is ready and equipped with protective gears in National and County governments,” he assured.

On the 13 Chinese, who arrived in the country last month, Kagwe said they were screened and put on self-quarantine.

“The 13 arrived on February 22 and 28 to SGR construction site in Mai Mahiu and we have been following them and are free from the virus,” he said.

At the same time, the accused cartels in pharmaceutical industry of being behind the artificial shortage of drugs, but vowed that the government crackdown on them.

“We are working to make sure there is no drug shortage and have directed Kemsa to supply drugs at the market price,” he said.

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