Ministry allays fears over COVID-19 mass testing

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 00:00 |
Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

The government yesterday allayed fears surrounding mass testing for the coronavirus disease, saying Kenyans living in targeted areas should willingly come forward and take part in the exercise.

Speaking during yesterday’s briefing on the deadly virus whose total infections reached 490 — just 10 shy of the 500 mark— after the confirmation of 25 cases, Health ministry Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi said testing is the most effective strategy of breaking the chain of transmission, adding that shying away is to the detriment of own health and that of families.

 The assurance comes as many Kenyans are reluctant to go for testing fearing being quarantined at their own cost even as the few who have undergone the process said it was uncomfortable.

The ministry made the appeal, amid growing concern on the creeping casual attitude among Kenyans with most going about their businesses in Nairobi and failing to observe containment measures provided to mitigate spread of the respiratory disease.

 Yesterday, Dr Mwangangi had a stern warning for those failing to observe protocols and guidelines to arrest the spread of Covid-19. “This is serious!” She said.

“Since we embarked on targeted testing in certain regions we have witnessed a gradual increase in the turnout.

Our teams are continuing with the exercise in areas where we have identified as hotspots, which include Kawangware, Eastleigh and Mvita in Mombasa. Kenyans should come forward to help government in containing a pandemic,” she added.

 The CAS said the targeted testing is meant to help identify and isolate the infected to prevent further transmission, adding that there is no way the country could fight the virus if government did not know where it is.

“We continue to urge Kenyans in these areas to willingly come forward and be tested because testing is the most effective strategy of breaking the chains of transmission,” she said.

Maintain measures

This came as questions emerged over the quarantine costs, which are far from reach for many Kenyans but Dr Mwangangi assured that a social assessment will be conducted to establish the most effective way of treatment.

She said the government is putting in place mechanisms to do away with stigma that comes with testing.

Also of concern to government is the fact that Kenyans have gone back to normal routine, as traffic jam starts being witnessed in Nairobi and in hotels.

“... things have not gone back to normal. We still need to maintain the containment measures… they are not for fun,” she said.

The CAS said a spot check by the ministry in hotels over the weekend indicate crowding.

In the last 24 hours, 1,012 samples were tested out of which 15 from Nairobi and 10 from Mombasa tested positive.

In Nairobi, Eastleigh  had eight cases, Mathare (one),  two from Umoja and Kawangware each while Kahawa West and Kariobangi South had one case each.

In Mombasa,  eight cases are from Old Town while Bombolulu and Jomvu had one case each.

Even as Kenyans are encouraged to wear masks, Dr Mwangangi said vendors should desist from the practice of allowing buyers to fit several of them without buying.

The CAS further said a multi-agency team is still tracing persons who escaped from quarantine but dismissed the notion that they are the ones spreading the disease.

Acting Health Director General, Dr Patrick Amoth assured health workers, who have threatened to down tools that their plight is being addressed.

“We are in discussion with healthcare workers. The Ministry is working with Public Service Commission and Salaries and Remuneration Commission to develop a plan and is awaiting approval, to cater for their welfare and other needs regarding extra hours they put in,” said Dr Amoth.

He said the government has started evacuating Kenyans from other countries, who will also be put in mandatory 14-day quarantine.

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