Kemri suspends free Covid-19 testing

Friday, July 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Some of the tour drivers waiting for their results for Covid-19 at the Kenya Medical Research institute headquarters Nairobi. Photo/PD/BENARD ORWONGO

Kenyans who are eager to know their coronavirus status will have to dig deeper into their pockets to have their samples tested after the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), which has been offering the services for free, suspended the programme.

The institution announced the decision on Wednesday after it became overwhelmed with the big number of people seeking to be tested at its headquarters in Mbagathi, Nairobi, according to Kemri Director General, Prof Yeri Kombe.

The huge number of people seeking to be tested has been attributed to the lifting of cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday.

“This is to kindly notify members of the public and our esteemed corporate clients that Kemri  will not be handling sample collection for Covid-19 at their headquarters and all its centres and stations within the country.

Walk-ins to all our facilities will not be allowed,” Kombe said in a public memo dated July 8. 

Kombe explained that the institution had decided to suspend the service but would continue to test samples for Covid-19, saying it was still committed to fighting the pandemic in the country. 

“But, the institute will continue to discharge its duty of conducting Covid-19 sample testing in all our designated laboratories countrywide,” he  explained.

He directed  those who wish to be tested, especially corporate clients, to make a formal request to the institution upon which it would make arrangements to dispatch a team to their respective premises to collect samples for testing. 

The announcement did not go down well with hundreds of Kenyans who have been thronging Kemri headquarters to undertake free tests since Tuesday, mainly from the hospitality industry, especially tour guides.

Tour excursion 

Evans Karanja Muniu, a 60-year-old tour guide, was among the hundreds of people who turned up at the Kemri headquarters yesterday, hoping to have the test done in preparation for a tour excursion to Maasai Mara next week, only to be turned away.

“How can I go back to work without a Covid-19 status certificate as required by my employer since I have to go back on July 15.

I am supposed to take a group of visitors to Maasai Mara next week, but now the hospitals we are being told to go for the tests are very expensive, and currently I don’t have money,” he said. 

The institution was forced to refer those who turned up at its headquarters yesterday to a previous memo dated May 8, in which it had advised employees in hotels and restaurants to seek Covid-19 testing at eight designated laboratories, failing which they will not be allowed to re-open.

“Following the policy guidelines from the Ministry of Health that hotels and restaurants must take measures to reduce Covid-19 pandemic before reopening the Ministry of Health has approved the following laboratories,” the memo said.

“The laboratories include; the National Influenza Centre (NPHLS); National HIV Reference Laboratory, Kenyatta National Hospital Lab, Nairobi Hospital Laboratory, Pathologist Lancet Nairobi, Kemri/WALTER- Reed Laboratory- Kericho, Nairobi West Hospital Laboratory and Mediheal Group of Hospitals Ltd,”  the memo signed by Dr Josephine Kibaru, Head Directorate of Health Services and sent to Head- Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Health Services and all sub-county Public Health Officers. 

The memo added; “Take note that only results from the accredited laboratories will be acceptable before issuance of a certificate. The Covid-19 results will be sent electronically from the laboratory to: [email protected].”

Yesterday, Kombe explained that Kemri had told those who had tested for Covid-19 on Tuesday that they did not need to come physically for the results, but to wait for a short message on their mobile phones.

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