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Covid-19: Porous Kenya-Somalia border a challenge for Wajir

Tuesday May 5 2020

Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi

Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi addresses journalists on the Covid-19 coronavirus disease on May 5. PHOTO | BRUHAN MAKONG | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRUHAN MAKONG
By BRUHAN MAKONG
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The porous Kenya-Somalia border is proving a challenge in management of the Covid-19 coronavirus disease for counties such as Wajir.

Wajir, which reported its first case of the deadly disease just five days ago, had seven cases as of Wednesday.

The Health ministry said all the cases were imported from Somalia, which had a total of 873 confirmed cases, 39 deaths and 87 recoveries as of May 6, according to case tracker Worldometer's tally.

Governor Mohamed Abdi said two of the county's initial cases resulted from contact with four people from Diff who evaded police checkpoints and travelled to Wajir town.

Three others were stopped at Riba in Wajir East on their way back from Mogadishu in Somalia for livestock trade, he said.

He said all the seven patients were being treated at the Wajir County Referral Hospital isolation centre.

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MEASURES

Mr Abdi said that since most residents are herders and traders who often cross the border, his administration decided to step up surveillance in border towns, with a focus on Dadajabula and Diff, where the first patient came from.

He said on Tuesday that the move had paid off since health officials were able to trace 31 contacts who were then quarantined in various isolation centers within the county.

The governor said the county had taken measures including dispatching medical personnel and supplies to Diff town, where an isolation centre was set up.

He said the health department also fumigated Diff Police Station where the first patient from Mogadishu was first held.

He added that more than 15 staff were sensitised on Covid-19 protection, community engagement and other matters and that cross-border coordination and information sharing had been strengthened.

The governor lauded security agencies for their role in enforcing the lockdown in Diff, which he also said was bearing fruit.

LOCKDOWN WARNING

County Commissioner Jacob Narengo warned that if matters worsen, a lockdown will be imposed.

Mr Narengo asked all the people with a history of travel from Somalia, especially livestock traders and religious leaders, to visit health facilities for Covid-19 tests.

"I know people were caught up in Somalia but now that they are coming back, they should go to the nearest health facilities and get tested,” he said.

Mr Narengo also asked residents to report all people crossing the border back to Kenya to authorities.

He said security agencies will enhance surveillance along the border and mount roadblocks but noted the need for the public to cooperate with authorities in efforts to contain the disease.