At least 59 people believed to have come into contact with a Catholic priest who tested positive for coronavirus have been put on self-quarantine as the government races against time to trace their travel history and contacts in a move aimed at forestalling an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, the Nation has established.
Those affected include five priests, three Migori-based nuns, 14 members of the priest's immediate family, 20 members of the family of the nun whose mother’s funeral the priest presided over in Ambira village in Siaya County and 16 neighbours of the nun’s family.
Four members of a family who attended the funeral are also quarantined in their Matayos home in Siroba village in Busia County.
The four were put on self-quarantine after the area village elder disclosed that they had attended the funeral presided over by Father Richard Onyango Oduor who jetted in from Rome, Italy, where he is based. He has since been quarantined at Mbagathi hospital.
The five priests in isolation include three based in Ugunja and the priest in charge of Sega where Fr Oduor allegedly spent the night on Saturday, March 13, after the burial and the following night before departing for Nairobi.
The fifth priest is in charge of Sigomere parish and is said to have joined his colleagues in Ugunja town.
Among the neighbours quarantined is the area assistant chief.
Tuesday, Nyanza Regional Commissioner James Kianda told the Nation that Ministry of Health officials working closely with other government officers have embarked on an elaborate plan to ensure all the the priest’s contacts since he jetted into the country on March 11 are traced. "We are working together as a team in tracking all the contacts and ensuring immediate action is taken on each case," Mr Kianda said.
Close to 500 people are estimated to have attended the burial.
A family in Kisumu is in panic after it emerged that two of their members attended the ceremony.
Mr Lawrence Okoth yesterday said his uncle, Mr Dominic Owuor, and grandmother Matilda Oloo attended the burial of Mama Lenola Awino in Siaya.
Their uncle was captured on camera sitting close to the priest during the ceremony. “I started receiving calls from people from yesterday (Monday) when the news of the priest from Italy was shared on social media," said Mr Okoth.
"I know my uncle; he wouldn't miss an opportunity to shake hands with the priest. Most definitely he interacted with him," he said.
The Nation has also established from multiple sources that the priest attended a night vigil on March 13.
However, Dr Bernard Ogutu, a member of the bereaved family, dismissed the claims.
Dr Ogutu, who is a research scientist at Kemri, said 13 priests attended their mother’s funeral on March 14 but none was present during the night vigil on Friday.
"The priest (from Italy) did not preside over the burial ceremony as claimed by a section of the media. The mass was conducted by the Ugunja parish priest," he said.
Dr Ogutu said he was on self-quarantine at his Nairobi home.
The Nation has also learnt that the priest’s father, his mother and siblings were among the 14 people who have been put under self-quarantine following a visit by a medical team from Siaya.
Seven of them are isolated at the priest's village home in Ambira, according to the priest's sister, Ms Mary Oduor. “I am also on self-quarantine with seven members of my family in Ugunja," she said.
Three Catholic nuns from St. Theresa’s Convent in Migori have also been quarantined. A senior nun at the Convent said her colleagues were shocked by the news.
Tuesday, a rapid response team from Migori was dispatched to St Monica Rapogi Mission Hospital where one of the nuns is an administrator.
Uriri SBU County Hospital administrator Mary Ayacko said the three nuns had been in isolation since leaving Ugunja. “None of them has shown any symptoms,” Ms Ayacko said.
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, area MCA and county Tourism executive are among the politicians who attended the burial. They have been asked by the emergency response team chaired jointly by Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga and County Commissioner Michael Ole Tialal to self-quarantine. However, they deny having interacted with the priest.
Reporting by Dickens Wasonga, Justus Ochieng, Ian Byron, Gaitano Pessa and Elizabeth Ojina