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Passengers from Chinese plane to be quarantined at KDF facility

Friday February 28 2020

China Southern Airlines

A China Southern Airlines plane lands at the airport in Guangzhou, in southern China's Guangdong province, on June 2, 2013. PHOTO | FILE 

MAUREEN KAKAH
By MAUREEN KAKAH
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The High Court has suspended flights from China for 10 days because of the coronavirus.

The court also ordered all passengers, who arrived in Nairobi on a Chinese plane Wednesday morning, be quarantined at a military facility.

Justice James Makau issued the orders after three cases were filed Friday against the Kenya government. The petitioners wanted the court to bar travellers from China and other coronavirus hotspots from entering the country.

“Upon perusal of all petitions and prayers sought, I find that unless a conservatory order is issued, Kenyans will be exposed to the deadly disease,” said Justice Makau.

The cases were filed at the High Court by the Law Society of Kenya, two doctors and an advocate.

They all sued Cabinet Secretaries for Health, Transport and Interior, Kenya Airports Authority and the Attorney-General.

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In the first case, the Law Society of Kenya listed China Southern Airlines Company Ltd as an interested party. LSK wanted the airline barred from bringing passengers from coronavirus hotspots to Kenya.

Justice Makau granted the request and suspended China Southern Airlines flights.

Following the High Court ruling, the Chinese Embassy in Kenya tweeted, "On Feb 28th 2020, Due to the decreasing volume of passenger flow, China Southern Airlines has made necessary adjustments by suspending flights connecting Guangzhou, Changsha and Nairobi until further notice."

In all the three cases, the petitioners pointed out that a China Southern Airlines plane landed in Nairobi on Wednesday with 239 passengers contrary to the global travel advisory issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in mitigating risks against the spread of the virus. They also said the landing of the Chinese plane amidst coronavirus fears caused anxiety and psychological trauma among Kenyans.

The petitioners criticised the government’s explanation that all the passengers on the Chinese plane were asked to self-quarantine. They termed the advice ''reckless''.

In the second case, Dr Joseph Mithika Mwenda and Dr Thiakanu Cyprian Mwirabua claimed that unless conservatory orders are issued by the High Court, the State will continue to allow more flights from China, hence put the lives of its citizens at risk.

The two doctors argued that Kenyans stand the risk of suffering greatly if proper measures are not put in place and wanted the government to embrace public participation and consult  medial professionals prior to making decisions that are likely to infringe on the rights of its citizens.

Dr Mwenda is the executive director of an environment conservation lobby known as the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) while Dr Mwirabua is a specialist in infectious diseases.

In the third case, lawyer Kounah Ochieng faulted the resumption of flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi even if they were reduced to once a week.

The deadly virus has already claimed 2,700 lives and another 80,000 have been affected worldwide.

The lawyer said that if the virus reaches Kenya, the country’s health sector will be overwhelmed.