Coronavirus: Chinese national to remain isolated despite testing negative

Wednesday March 18 2020
By KITAVI MUTUA

A Chinese national working for Sino Hydro Construction Company in Kitui County will remain isolated for two weeks, before being allowed to resume duties, despite testing negative for coronavirus.

The man, who works as an accountant with the firm constructing the Kitui–Mutomo–Kibwezi road, caused a major scare at their Mutomo camp after he was quarantined and was being served food through the window on instructions of his seniors.

Kitui County Chief Officer for Health Dr Richard Muthoka said preliminary medical tests had shown the man had no signs of coronavirus, but will remain under strict isolated observation until the mandatory two weeks are over.

“The Chinese man has been examined by our medical staff and he tested negative to the basic symptoms of coronavirus,” Dr Muthoka told journalists on Tuesday adding that the man will also be wearing a face mask at all times.

Workers at the camp were alarmed when they were instructed by their seniors that the man, who had been holidaying in his home country since January, be kept under isolation.

One Kenyan staff -- a cook at the camp -- was instructed to observe the sick man and avoid any contact with him. The patient is said to have jetted into the country over the weekend. He took a taxi from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Mutomo after Sino Hydro Corporation drivers reportedly declined to pick him up from the airport over health fears.

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The drivers were reluctant to receive foreigners, most of whom had been on vacation in Wuhan, China’s region hardest hit by coronavirus.

The scare over the Chinese national showing signs of possible coronavirus worsened when medical staff who went to assess him were denied access to the camp.

HEALTH RISKS

Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai urged the relevant government departments, including security agencies, to ensure the workers at the construction site and the local community are not exposed to health risks.

The MP said health officials must also ensure strict compliance with a 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 the Chinese coming from regions with coronavirus outbreak,” Dr Nyamai said.

Mutomo sub-county medical officer Dr Paul Kibati and his team of medics were yesterday escorted by police to the camp where they screened the foreigner, giving him a clean bill of health.

According to Zeng Yun , the chief engineer at Sino Hydro, the man was vacationing at his home in Hebei province in northern China and not southern Hubei province in which Wuhan city is located, where the coronavirus disease has killed hundreds of people.

“He travelled from Beijing to Nairobi via Dubai, and was screened at both the port of exit and entry but we went further and decided to keep him isolated on the advice of the Chinese Embassy,” said Mr Yun.

Mr Yun said the Chinese accountant arrived at JKIA on Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 3pm and left the airport after undergoing the necessary medical screening before proceeding to Mutomo where he arrived at 7pm.

He assured the Mutomo community that the firm would not risk recalling staff living in the affected Wuhan region in China.