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Alarm as police officers, healthcare workers get coronavirus  

Sunday June 21 2020
MWIKI 4

Police officers patrol in Mwiki, Kasarani, Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE

By ANITA CHEPKOECH

Three police officers at Kamukunji Police Station in Nairobi have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 30 nurses at Pumwani Hospital put in quarantine as anxiety mounted over the safety of front-line workers.

The first positive case at the Kamukunji station was recorded on Friday afternoon, prompting testing of all the police officers there.

One of the three is a Directorate of Criminal Investigations detective, who was confirmed positive at Aga Khan University Hospital and is currently under home-based care with his three children at his Ruiru home.

Whereas these are the first cases of police officers to test positive, 83 healthcare workers have so far contracted the virus and tens of others, including those at Pumwani, are quarantined, having come into contact with patients confirmed to be Covid-19 positive.

The cases among frontline health and security workers have caused apprehension among the public, who often interact with them seeking services or during security operations.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman yesterday said they have tightened measures to protect front-line workers from contracting the disease.

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Medics have, however, accused the ministry of supplying them with substandard personal protective equipment, exposing them and the public  to the deadly virus.

“We have placed a great deal of emphasis on all front-line workers; healthcare, security and disciplined forces who interact with people regularly. Aside from offering them protective gear, we have trained them on how to protect and conduct themselves,” said the CAS during the daily briefing at Afya House, Nairobi.

“For Pumwani and Kamukunji, there is a standard practice that we observe whenever cases or those suspected are reported. We do contact tracing, quarantine and isolation depending on where the contact happened,” he added.

Health Director-General Patrick Amoth added that prisons and remand facilities, which are also high-risk areas, now have proper protective equipment, together with isolation and quarantine centres, to avoid the risk of exposing inmates who live in large numbers in confinement.

“Capacity building has been done for prison warders and other officers on how to handle any eventuality,” said Dr Amoth. “High caution should be taken not to let infections into correctional facilities because they have a high population with little practicality of maintaining social distance.”

The ministry announced an increase in the national tally of Covid-19 cases to 4,478 after 104 more people tested positive in 24 hours.

Dr Aman said that 36 people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the number of recoveries to 1,586.

He said two people died of the virus, taking the national death toll to 121.

Dr Aman said all the 104 cases derived from the 2,820 samples, are Kenyans aged between one year and 76.

Nairobi had the highest number of positive cases at 60, followed by Mombasa (33) Kilifi (5), Busia (3), Kajiado (2) and Taita Taveta one case.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has enormous health, socio-economic and psychological impact on the population. It causes insidious psychological suffering that results from the response actions against the pandemic,” said Dr Aman.

He added that the ministry is keen to support Kenyans whose mental well-being is being affected by the pandemic, by providing health and psychological support.

Distressed Kenyans are encouraged to access telecounselling services through the hotline 1199719, which is operational round the clock.

“Already, we are receiving many calls, including from young people. Their nature surrounds anxiety, gender and domestic violence and depression,” said Dr Amoth.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union has called on healthcare workers receiving PPE to be vigilant and reject any that they deem to be of low quality.

The have also complained about shortage of PPE, with most doctors still lacking N95 masks, gowns and face shields.

“KMPDU recommends that the government subject all manufacturers to the same stringent quality measures as specified by Kebs. Some counties have reported that the PPE supplied from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority may be a mixture of quality PPE and poor quality gear,” said acting secretary-general Chibanzi Mwachonda.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Refugee Agency is concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in refugee camps after a five-year-old child died in the Dadaab refugee complex.

Dadaab now has 11 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

The Kakuma refugee camp has also recently reported two cases of the virus, raising fears that the pandemic could cut a deadly swathe through the crowded camps.

Aisha Regina, a Congolese refugee in Kakuma, which houses nearly 200,000 people said that if the virus does overcome public health defences, “then all of us will perish”.

“There is no space where one can stay away from the other,” Ms Regina told the Associated Press.

Eujin Byun, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, expressed concern over the vulnerability of the 217,000 refugees living in the Dadaab complex, as well as the 320,000 residents of surrounding areas.

The Dadaab camps, which have no intensive care units, reported their first two coronavirus cases in mid-May. Since then, the UN has enhanced its health facilities in Dadaab, adding 955 beds in isolation and quarantine centres.

An additional 125 hand-washing stations have been installed at food distributions sites, schools and markets in the complex, the UN said on Friday.

Refugee-led groups have meanwhile produced almost 300,000 cloth masks, which have been distributed in Dadaab and nearby communities.

The UN is also conducting campaigns through local radio and in posters and WhatsApp messages in multiple languages.

— Additional reporting by Kevin J Kelley in New York

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