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Covid-19: Homa Bay's 2nd patient sneaked into Tanzania and back

Saturday May 9 2020

Travellers sanitise hands in Homa Bay

A traveller sanitises her hands at Nyakwere market along Homa Bay-Katito road on April 1, 2020 as part of measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. Homa Bay County's first case of the coronavirus was reported on April 18, 2020. PHOTO | GEORGE ODIWUOR | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

GEORGE ODIWUOR
By GEORGE ODIWUOR
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The 45-year-old woman from Homa Bay County, who tested positive for the coronavirus, sneaked into Kenya from Tanzania where she had attended a relative’s funeral.

The woman, who hails from Gwassi in Suba Sub-county, reportedly crossed into Tanzania illegally two weeks ago, to bury her step-father in Shirati.

County Health executive Richard Muga said she stayed in that country for two weeks and that it is believed she contracted the virus there.

She returned to Kenya at about midnight on May 5 and then travelled back to her home in Mukuyu village using a boda boda.

Villagers reported her travels to local authorities, worried about possible transmission of the Covid-19 disease.

"They had not seen her for two weeks. They got information that she had travelled to Tanzania for a funeral and decided to inform their local chief," Prof Muga said.

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QUARANTINE

The executive said that the following day, the chief mobilised officers from the Interior ministry, including Deputy County Commissioner Kamau Maina, and health surveillance officers in Suba and that together they went to the woman's home.

"It was decided that the woman be quarantined at the KMTC in Homa Bay town. She was picked up by ambulance and taken there," Prof Muga said.

Her sample was collected on May 7 and tested at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kisumu.

The positive test result came the following day and with it, the county recorded its second case of Covid-19.

"She was immediately taken to the isolation Unit at Malela in Ndhiwa Sub-county to keep her from transmitting the virus to other people at the quarantine facility," the official said.

By Saturday afternoon, seven people who came into contact with the patient had been traced by the county incident management team and quarantined at the KMTC.

They included her husband, three adult sons, an eight-year-old niece and a five-month old grand-daughter.

POROUS BORDERS

Prof Muga asked residents to be on the lookout for people who sneak into and out of the county.

“The country has porous borders through which someone can get in and out undetected. I call on everyone to be watchful and inform authorities about such people."

Suba South MP John Mbadi told his constituents to take personal responsibility in the fight against the disease, that had infected 649 Kenyans by May 9.

He said the proximity of his constituency to the border in Tanzania and Uganda many encourage a lot of people to cross over to the neighbouring counties.

"My area is at high risk because it borders two countries. I encourage everyone to be responsible and protect themselves by obeying governments orders," he said.

ESCAPEES

Meanwhile, three people who sneaked into Bomet County from Nairobi have been arrested and quarantined.

Reports indicated that four others went underground after learning that police and public health officers were trailing them.

The suspects are said to have come from Eastleigh in Nairobi, where the government imposed a lockdown and banned hawking, any types of public gatherings as well as market and restaurant operations.

A woman was arrested in Ndanai, Sotik Constituency, on Thursday evening while two other people were arrested on Friday morning.

Dr Joseph Sitonik, Bomet 's Medical Services and Public Health executive, said they were quarantined at Tenwek Hospital.

County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding thanked the public for voluntarily giving security agencies information on secret travellers.

Mr Omoding said surveillance had been heightened to curb inter-county movement, especially from Nairobi, which has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Kenya and which is under a partial lockdown.

"We will place them under forced quarantine for flouting the government's directive on restricted travel outside Nairobi," he said, adding that they would be arraigned.

BLAME GAME

In Kericho County, two people apprehended after escaping from the Nairobi KMTC quarantine centre two weeks ago were taken to the Kapkatet KMTC.

In Migori, leaders called for an end to the stigmatisation of coronavirus patients after three cases, all imported from Tanzania, were reported.

Led by Governor Okoth Obado, the leaders said the fight against the pandemic will only succeed if people take personal responsibility and stop the blame game.

“Some people are claiming that our brothers from the Kuria community have brought the disease to us. This kind of blame game is ill-advised and must be avoided because the coronavirus knows no tribe or boundary,” Governor Obado said.

The three Covid 19 cases reported in the country traced their travel history to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma towns in neighbouring Tanzania.

The three patients from Kuria East and Kuria West sub-counties were taken to the Macalder isolation centre in Nyatike.

It is said that they travelled from Dodoma and Dar es Salaam and crossed into the country through the porous borders.

PEACE CALL

Elders from the Luo and Kuria communities also weighed in on the matter, calling for peace.

The Luo Abasuba elders, led by Migori Chairman Riogi Riogi, called on Kenyans living in Tanzania to stop panic-travelling as they could contract the virus or unknowingly spread it.

“We don’t want utterances that may culminate into discontent and breach of peace. Let everyone be alert and desist from divisive pronouncements as we tighten the grip on the pandemic,” said Mzee Riogi.

County Health executive Isca Oluoch cautioned against misinformation and incitement.

“We have several holding centres across the county. We have traced 33 contacts who are being monitored at Mabera Sub-county Hospital. Locals should therefore avoid spreading the rumour that we don’t have the capacity to handle new cases,” she said.

Reporting by George Odiwuorm Vitalis Kimutai and Ian Byron