Coronavirus preparedness: Counties lay down rules

Wednesday March 18 2020

Health officials in some of the 14 counties placed on high alert for coronavirus have released rules to help avert spread of the disease in the event a case is reported in the country.

The counties are Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kiambu, Uasin Gishu, Kajiado, Busia, Migori, Kilifi, Kakamega, Kajiado, Nakuru, Wajir and Garissa.

They were placed on high alert given their status as points of entry or their proximity to those that are points of entry.

In Mombasa, Kenya’s tourism hub and the gateway to East Africa, a daily line list of travellers trooping to the town from China has been set up to help in the tracking of suspected cases.

The disease was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019 and has killed at least 3,882 people so far. More than 111,000 people are infected worldwide.

The symptoms include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.


Mombasa's health officials have advised residents to adhere to the rules as the virus continues to cause panic globally.

The rules advise against kissing, hugging and shaking hands.

Residents shall wash hands with running water and detergent or use hand sanitisers and self-quarantine in case of symptoms of the Covid-19 disease.

“To avert spread of the disease, let’s hi-5 instead of shaking hands. Culturally, we are supposed to shake hands while greeting but because of the virus, let's adhere to the directive,” said Public Health Chief Officer Aisha Abubakar.

She told those who develop symptoms not to mingle with the public and alert health authorities for examination.

She added: “If you identify a visitor from Japan and China, kindly alert us. We will come and examine them to ascertain if we can interact with them."


Speaking on Sunday, during International Women's Day celebrations at Mombasa showground in Mkomani, Ms Koitaba further urged residents to sensitise their relatives and neighbours on the virus.

She said the county will hold sensitisation forums as a preparedness measure.

“When coughing or sneezing always use a handkerchief. The disease spreads very fast. At our work stations; we share computers and furniture so let's wash them thoroughly,” she said.

Ms Fatma Kushe, the county assembly's Health committee vice-chair, urged residents to seek medical attention in public hospitals if they exhibit the symptoms.

“Don’t kiss, hug or shake hands. Let’s just wave. This disease spreads very fast. Let's thoroughly wash our hands. Prevention is better than cure,” she reiterated.

Health executive Hazel Koitaba also emphasised the preventative measures.


Mombasa has set up an isolation ward at Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital (CGTRH), the largest health facility in the region, to quarantine any suspected case.

“The site is to be used to quarantine suspected cases or to isolate confirmed cases. It has adequate personal protective equipment and personnel specially trained to handle cases," said Ms Koitaba.

She said other other health facilities around the county were encouraged to set up isolation centres.

Ms Koitaba further said that the department and the port health authorities regularly share updates on suspected cases entering the county.


In Kilifi, Health CEC Anisa Omar told the Nation that a team of health experts was sent to Malindi International Airport to track suspicious cases.

“We have formed a rapid response team at county and sub-county levels and trained healthcare workers. We are on high alert on hygiene," said Dr Omar.

"My team has been visiting the airport to ascertain whether public health officers are tracking suspicious cases."

He said schools were asked to ensure availability of running water and soap.

Malindi, an Italian resort town nicknamed Little Italy, is home to around 4,000 Italians, some of whom have started leaving their country en masse due to the infection that has besieged the nation.

Last week, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe suspended flights specifically from Verona and Milan to the Kenyan coast, after consultations with the Italian Embassy and other stakeholders.

“This part of Italy is currently experiencing coronavirus incidents which could affect the safety of Kenyans,” Mr Kagwe said in a press release.

The infection has adversely affected tourism, with some hotels receiving cancellations and postponement of travel dates from Europe, especially Italy.

In Garissa, Health executive Dr Ahmed Nadhir is concerned that if the virus is reported in Somalia, the county will be affected.

“Although we have put in place measures to curb cases, we are worried ... as we share a border but we are on high alert. We are sensitising residents on hygiene,” Dr Nadhir said.

The executive said the county is in the process of setting up an isolation ward at Garissa Referral Hospital.

He said the Council of Governors and the Health minister met to discuss preparedness.