More quarantine period for some isolation centres

Monday, April 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi. Photo/PD/FILE

Bernard Gitau and Roy Lumbe

The government has stood its ground on its controversial decision to extend the quarantine period from 14 to 28 days in some isolation centres.

Acting Health Director General Patrick Amoth said between 45 per cent and 50 per cent of those who have tested positive were from quarantine centres and, therefore, the decision to extend the period by two weeks was justified.

“In some quarantine facilities people did not maintain social distancing, therefore leading to cross-infection.

On the other hand we want to appreciate centres such as Trade Mark where we tested a total of 144 and all of them tested negative, meaning they respected the covenant of social distancing.

If you don’t and then in the case a quarantine centre such as KMTC where you have 11 cases coming up, then we have no choice but to extend the quarantine period so that we can protect the general population and insist that within this 14 days again you maintain social distance. 

“However, painful this decision is, we will not waver on the extend of protecting Kenyans from a few people who have failed to comply with very simple instructions which others have complied with and are very soon going home,” he said during yesterday’s media briefing by the government. 

Amoth said the Health ministry was in discussion on how to ease the burden of cost for those in quarantine centres.

Chief Administrative Secretary in the ministry, Mercy Mwangangi, said out of the 16 people who tested positive in the 24 hours to yesterday, nine were from quarantine centres meaning the decision to place people in forced isolation was needed to protect the public. The number of people with the disease in the country now stands at 142.

“What we are coming to learn with this disease is that as soon as you come into contact with someone who is positive the quarantine protocols guide us that we should then institute quarantine. 

These are painful decisions, that we did not take lightly and we do appreciate the anxiety it has caused,” she said. 

But Kenyans and foreigners who have spent the last 14 days in various quarantine centres and have been declared negative are accusing the government of shifting goal posts and subjecting them to inhumane treatment.

Those who have been living in government centres claim the conditions are deplorable and extending the quarantine period is punishing them unfairly. 

On Saturday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe announced that the quarantine period would be extended in some centres, accusing some of those in forced isolation of misbehaving by sneaking out to go partying.

Extend quarantine

Those quarantined in hotels say the government is punishing them for the mistake of others.

“We have received disturbing news that Pride Inn Azure is one of the centres where quarantine will be extended.

The news came to us yesterday through a WhatsApp group message from a staff member of the hotel, we then contacted the doctor assigned to this hotel, who claimed that the decision to extend our quarantine was done by someone from Ministry of Health Directorate.

What reports does the directorate have about Pride Inn Azure residents that have warranted this blanket condemnation, yet we did abide by every rule,” said the group through an open letter.

Kelvin Maina, a Kenyan who came back from Qatar where he works as a driver and is quarantined at Lenana School, said they are living in pathetic conditions.

“The conditions here are deplorable. It is not equal to Sh2,000 a day,” he said.

In some government isolation centres, uncollected garbage, dirty dormitories, filthy bathrooms and toilets, and lack of personal protective equipment, are some of the main complaints.

Some of those affected are now threatening to walk away from the centres if the government does not release them.

“They should test us today and tomorrow and let us go home. If they refuse we shall pack our personal effects and proceed home,” said one of those quarantined at a government facility.

Some of those in government institutions are worried that extending the period will expose them to the disease.

One of the people staying at the Moi Nairobi Girls Secondary School quarantine centre said the first test was done on Monday last week and results came out on Thursday and positive cases were picked up on Saturday evening.

Share toilets

“We are at least 137 and we were exposed to them and that is our concern. Though we are occupying rooms individually, we are sharing toilets, bathrooms and tea points, tables and halls,” he said.

The man, who came from South Sudan is on his 10th day and he is afraid he may already have been exposed to Covid-19.

At Lenana School, a woman who sought anonymity accused the government of punishing them for coming home. She has been at the centre for 12 days.

In a recorded video around the centre, uncollected garbage including used gloves and masks can be seen.

“The garbage is uncollected for days. We feel the government has confined us and we are really exposed to Covid-19, we feel coming home was our worst mistake,” she said.

Test positive

She said the news by Health ministry extending the quarantine by another 14 days is “unbelievable”.

“We have been accused of not observing social distancing and precautions, we are sharing a dormitory, no water and soap for days, no masks, sharing bathrooms and toilets is the norm,” she said.

She revealed that out of 38 people both men and women, four tested positive last week.

“We were tested on Monday last week but results came in on Thursday contrary to 24 days recommended. Four people tested positive but were taken to isolation on Saturday,” she said.

“We came home where we thought we will be safe; we were wrong. Some of us have been laid off, some are students and the Sh2,000 per day is excessive,” she added.

In Nakuru, those at the Kenya Industrial Training Institute (KITI) also complained of harsh conditions. An Eldoret-based athlete, Samson Rutto, said the conditions are deplorable and called on the county leadership to intervene

“We are mentally disturbed due to poorly-ventilated rooms and food,” he said.

On payment, Rutto said the idea to force Kenyans to pay for their expenses was not well thought out.

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