President Uhuru Kenyatta has issued an executive order directing that the 120-bed ward at Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi to be used as an isolation centre for coronavirus cases be completed within the next seven days.
Mr Kenyatta also ordered that isolation and treatment facilities be set up in all Level Five and referral hospitals across the country by March 15, 2020.
The President’s measures come amid public uproar over concerns on the government’s readiness, to which he said “there is demonstrable and compelling public interest in further upscaling Kenya’s level of preparedness and capacity to prevent, respond to and contain this emerging global threat.”
The Covid-19 virus, that originated in Chinese city of Wuhan, has as at Friday killed more than 2,800 people and infected more than 83,000 others globally.
While there has be no case reported in Kenya, the government’s stance to allow 239 passengers from Guangzhou in China aboard the China Southern Airlines on Wednesday, triggered outrage over risks of coronavirus spread in the country. The passengers were reportedly cleared of Covid-19 and directed to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The Health ministry, trying to allay the fears, said the top referral hospital in Nairobi, Kenyatta National Hospital, had put up a 11-bed isolation unit and that the Mbagathi centre would be ready in a month’s time.
The country has 36 Level Five hospitals and eight referrals including KNH spread across the 47 counties.
To heighten the level of preparedness, President Kenyatta has set up a 22-member task force tasked with coordinating the country’s response, enhancing surveillance at ports of entry, coordinating supply of testing kits and critical medical products including masks and protective gear.
The team will also coordinate the preparation of national, county and private isolation and treatment facilities, as well as marshal local and international human resources.
They are also expected to formulate, enforce and review processes and requirements for entry into Kenya of any persons suspected to have travelled to a coronavirus infested area.
“Kenya is a major international transport hub, with 70 percent of international passengers in transit, and there is a significant threat arising from the spread of the coronavirus to Kenya from countries that have new and ongoing outbreaks of the pneumatic disease,” said the President in the Executive Order Number 2 of 2020.
The National Emergency Response Committee comprises of Cabinet Secretaries for Health (who will chair the team), Transport, Foreign Affairs, ICT, and Defence. Other members are Principal Secretaries from the ministries of Interior, Health, Treasury, Foreign Affairs, Transport, Telecommunications, as well as the Council of Governors’ Health committee chairperson.
Director-generals of Medical Services at the Health ministry and the Kenya Defence Forces counterpart, Immigration, Kenya Airports Authority, and Kenya Civil Aviation Authority are also members.
The President’s chief of staff and principal administrative secretary as well as the government spokesman will also be in the team.