With more than 30 people quarantined following confirmation of two cases of the deadly coronavirus in Mandera County, Governor Ali Roba on Thursday ordered a lockdown.
There has been a race to find people who came into close contact with the patients admitted at the Mandera County Referral Hospital.
While issuing the directive, Governor Roba said, “Countries that have succeeded in the fight against the coronavirus are those that practiced early lockdowns to restrict the spread.
"Covid-19 doesn’t spread by itself but through the movement of people. As such we are left with no choice but to order a lockdown within the county."
More than 100 passengers came into contact with the two patients who passed through several locations in their journey to Mandera.
Governor Roba said the tracing of travellers in the Makka bus had been difficult as some alighted along the way.
The confirmed cases - a man and a woman - returned from Europe and stayed in Kilifi before proceeding to Mandera.
They also passed through Eastleigh in Nairobi County, Mwingi in Kitui County, Garissa and Wajir before arriving in Elwak in Mandera on April 1.
In his address to the press, the county chief said his administration was facing many challenges in the process of finding the contacts.
“The contact tracing continues despite the challenges. Some patients disembarked before reaching Mandera and the phone contacts of some were not captured in the manifest,” he said.
However, Mr Roba reassured the people, saying the county would leave no stone unturned.
“We are handling these challenges as professionally as possible. We have never handled an emergency of this nature and magnitude so we keep encountering gaps but we are determined to do our best,” he said.
The governor decried a shortage of sample collection kits in Mandera.
“Progress has been made but we have run short of sample collection kits. We have more than 30 people in quarantine but we have no kits with which to send samples to Nairobi,” he said, and appealed for urgent intervention by the government.
The county boss wants the Ministry of Health to avail the kits to enable the forwarding samples for testing in Nairobi.
“I still make a fresh appeal to the National Steering Committee on Covid-19 to help Mandera set up a testing facility or consider a flight to help with movement of samples to the nearest testing facility in Nairobi, which is 1,200 kilometers away,” he said.
It takes up to five days for Mandera to receive the results of tests conducted in Nairobi.
Meanwhile, despite the ban on travel to and from Nairobi, most buses plying the Nairobi-Mandera route have continued to operate.
Interestingly, these buses are cleared every morning by officers at the Mandera Police Station.
Mr Roba wants the activities of these bus companies investigated.
“We are reliably informed that unscrupulous transporters have positioned themselves in strategic places outside the Nairobi metropolis' borders and still embark on travel to Mandera," he said.
"We urge our enforcement partners to help us ensure the lockdown orders by President Uhuru Kenyatta are fully implemented."
He further noted that travellers from Nairobi were still sneaking into Mandera, risking further spread of the coronavirus.
Governor directed all staff to work from home, save for those in the health and revenue collection departments.
“We do not want to expose our staff. I consequently direct that they work from home and stay safe,” he said.
“Mandera will shut down operations and concentrate on Covid-19 detection, prevention, intervention and response,” he added.
He said the gates to county offices would remain closed to public and advised those with urgent matters to sent emails of call, and direct their requests to the county secretary and head of civil service.