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Sneak into Somalia at your own risk, Mandera residents warned

Sunday May 3 2020

A street in Mandera town on March 9, 2020.

A street in Mandera town on March 9, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MANASE OTSIALO
By MANASE OTSIALO
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BRUHAN MAKONG
By BRUHAN MAKONG
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Residents of Mandera County have been warned against sneaking into Somalia for prayers after places of worship were closed down in Kenya amid efforts to combat Covid-19.

County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha said those found will be placed under forced quarantine at their own cost and later prosecuted.

“We have information that quite a number of residents of Mandera have been crossing into Somalia to performs prayers in Mosques there. We have activated our security operations and anybody found will be arrested and prosecuted after completing 14 days quarantine,” said Mr Kyatha.

He said the move has been informed by soaring Covid-19 cases in Somalia.

Mr Kyatha said local religious leaders in Mandera County have been informed of the behaviour among their faithful, adding that the Imams and Sheikhs have to ensure government directives are adhered to.

Somalia, which has 671 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 31 deaths, is yet to close its mosques where large gatherings are witnessed during prayers.

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NORTHERN COUNTIES AT RISK

The recent upsurge of Covid-19 cases in neighbouring Somalia has put Wajir, Mandera and Garissa counties -- which are seated along the border -- at high risk of importing the virus.

Already, Wajir has reported two positive coronavirus cases which were all imported from Somalia.

The two traders, who hail from Garissa, had travelled for a livestock trading trip before they were intercepted by security agencies in Diff at the Kenya-Somalia border on their way back to the country.

Kenya shares a long porous border with Somalia, making it difficult for security teams and disease surveillance teams to track all new entrants into the region.

This has placed State agencies on high alert, forcing them to enhance surveillance across the border with governors issuing a number of directives to control spread of the virus.

In Wajir, governor Mohamed Abdi dispatched a team of health personnel with medical supplies to Diff, Dadajabula and other border towns to embark screening of residents and fumigation of public places.

Mr Abdi also ordered the lockdown of Diff town for a period of 14 days effective from May 3, a move he says is aimed at containing the virus in the area and preventing it from spreading.

The governor also suspended all outpatient services at the Wajir Referral Hospital until further notice as the facility now serves as the main isolation centre.

The county administration also ordered the closure of Diff and Dagahaley Livestock markets from Sunday.

Just recently, the Wajir Regional laboratory which was given a nod by the government to carry out coronavirus tests.

On Sunday, the County Government of Garissa announced the immediate closure of Dagahley livestock market in Dadaab Sub-county following confirmed reports of the virus in Wajir.

"The closure is informed by the risk level of the market since traders are known to move across the border to Somalia to get stock. Risk of transmission from both humans and the procured livestock from Somalia poses great danger," Health Executive Ahmednadir Omar Sheikh said.

In Mandera County, Governor Ali Roba is also implementing a number of measures to curb spread of the virus.

They include a total lockdown to prevent entry and exit of people and vehicles from the county, hiring hotels for frontline health workers treating Covid-19 cases and and temporary suspension of miraa trade which has since been lifted.

Mr Roba, along with some of his staff, also took pay cuts which will be directed towards the Covid-19 response kitty.

ONE PATIENT RECOVERS

One coronavirus patient in Mandera was discharged after recovering from the disease and testing negative.

Two of the eight patients who were isolated at Mandera County Referral Hospital have also tested negative but are awaiting a second test before being discharged.

Addressing a press conference at the county headquarters in Mandera Town Friday, an upbeat Mr Roba said the remaining five patients were responding well to treatment and could soon recover.

"We are relieved to report that most persons in various quarantine facilities in Elwak, Rhamu and KMTC Mandera have tested negative for Covid-19 and have accordingly been released," he said.

According to the county boss, 134 people in the county have been tested.

Tests carried out on 24 frontline health personnel also turned negative.

"This has increased the confidence levels of our medical personnel in dealing with Covid-19 patients safely. We are giving our health personnel all the necessary support including protective equipment to support the execution of their responsibilities safely and effectively," he said.

At least 19 people are still under quarantine in Mandera while awaiting testing.