alexa Coronavirus fear grips Narok East after 6 Chinese arrive - Daily Nation

Coronavirus fear grips Narok East after 6 Chinese arrive

Friday February 28 2020

Narok East coronavirus protests

Resident display a sign at Suswa trading centre in Narok East during a protest against the return of Chinese nationals amid the coronavirus threat, February 28, 2020. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GEORGE SAYAGIE
By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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A coronavirus scare has gripped Narok East Sub-County as six Chinese nationals involved in a construction project are on a 14-day quarantine.

The foreigners have been quarantined at one of the Standard Gauge Railway construction sites at Duka Moja trading centre along the Narok-Mai Mahiu road.

Resident Daniel Mututua said the group flew back to Kenya from China on February 22 and has been holed up at the facility since then.

He said they were seen with masks and that their movement was minimal.

DEMONSTRATION

Speaking to the Nation at Suswa trading centre, Mr Mututua said the community was worried since they were not sure about the test results and why the foreigners were allowed into the country despite a worldwide scare.

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“If the government cannot handle the locust outbreak, why is it endangering our lives by letting them in in the wake of the virus outbreak in their country of origin?"

Locals working at the site, who drove the foreigners from Nairobi, said they were afraid since they did not have protective gear.

On Friday morning, the community was mobilised for a demonstration against the government move and the project contractor.

Residents barricaded the highway for more than an hour and threatened to storm all the five construction sites in the area and flush out the Chinese.

They also lit fires, waved placards and demanded the government's assurance of their safety.

Resident block Narok-Maimahiu road at Suswa
Resident block Narok-Maimahiu road at Suswa trading centre in Narok East in a protest against the return of Chinese nationals amid the coronavirus threat, February 28, 2020. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

COMPANY'S COMMENT

Reached for comment, the China Construction Company Corporation said the foreigners returned from Lunar Year celebrations.

Jeanne Ongiyo, the Public and Media Relations Manager, said they were on a 14-day quarantine at one of the camps in Suswa.

Ms Ongiyo said they were all taken through mandatory testing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi and that none exhibited any signs of infection, so there was no need to worry.

“We assure the public that the staff are observed and tested daily while in quarantine. To date we have not had any reported positive cases," she said.

"We understand the growing concerns related to the virus but we assure you that the company has the interests of Kenyans at heart. We would not deliberately pose a threat to the community that has been generous and hospitable to us throughout our engagement."

Ms Ongiyo said the six were seconded from the head office.

"Since the sites closed down, we don't have many personnel and operations there,” she said.

MP'S CONCERNS

Narok East MP Lemanken Aramat raised the alarm in Parliament on Thursday, claiming that Chinese nationals from Wuhan, the outbreak's epicentre, had flown into the country.

Mr Aramat said eight arrived on February 22 and were ferried to section 5 of the construction site at Duka Moja.

The lawmaker, who raised the matter during a private questioning session, appealed to the Health ministry for a proper report.

“Could the CS clarify whether the said Chinese nationals were properly screened and provide the reasons they were allowed into the country and to the rural Narok instead of being isolated in a suitable, designated isolation centre".

In his parliamentary question no, 006/2020, under order number 7, Mr Aramat also sought to know the steps that had been taken to ensure SGR workers travelling from China and other affected countries are properly examined before being allowed into Kenya.

Resident display signs at Suswa trading centre
Resident display signs at Suswa trading centre in Narok East during a protest against the return of Chinese nationals amid the coronavirus threat, February 28, 2020. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

PRECAUTION

Mr Aramat urged the relevant government departments, including security agencies, to ensure the Chinese at the construction sites and the local community are not exposed to health risks.

The MP further said Narok's health officials must ensure strict compliance with the government directive to isolate all Chinese, whether sick or not, for 14 days.

“Even if these people have been tested at the point of entry, we can’t afford to take chances. The locals are worried because they are mingling with Chinese coming from regions with the coronavirus outbreak."

A worker at the site, who didn’t want to be named for fear of victimisation, said more than 20 Chinese nationals had been quarantined.