Kenya will evacuate its students trapped in Wuhan, the Chinese epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
At the same time, President Kenyatta said Nairobi was putting in place stringent measures to ensure the virus does not enter Kenya.
“We are also working; because we have got a good number of our students there, to see how we can support them and find out how we can also, when they do come and insist they are coming, ensure that they are put in quarantine for the required 14 days and ensure that they are not going to spread that virus around,” President Kenyatta told a forum at the Atlantic Council, an American think-tank on foreign policy, business and politics in Washington.
At least 200 Kenyan students are based in Wuhan, the capital of Hebei Province in China.
The students had earlier complained of being neglected by authorities in Nairobi as the virus spreads.
President Kenyatta said Kenya was realistic about its ability to combat the coronavirus.
He said the country had cut direct flights to China besides implementing tighter quarantine for suspected cases.
“We have to do everything we can to protect our citizens,” said the President.
“We have stopped our flights into Chinese cities, and there is no politics here, we don’t have capacity to build hospitals in seven days. So we must do everything within the limited resources to ensure that we keep this virus away,” he added.
China has had more than 10,000 cases of coronavirus infections with some 490 deaths reported. The virus, a type of respiratory infection that shows flu-like symptoms, first emerged at the end of December.
Its spread has seen various countries impose travel bans to China as well as suspend direct flights, even as Chinese authorities last week erected a hospital in seven days to treat the disease.
WEAKER HEALTH SYSTEMS
Within the region, however, Ethiopian Airlines, which flies direct into Nairobi and Mombasa and has daily flights to China, is yet to suspend its China route.
President Kenyatta said Ethiopia must realise it may not contain the virus should it enter the country.
“We have weaker health systems … therefore we must take stringent measures to ensure the virus doesn’t come through … and we do hope our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia will also realise the same and come to terms with that fact.
“It has nothing to do with our relationship with any country, it has something to do with protecting our citizens.
At the Atlantic Council, the President was speaking about the ''Future of US-Kenya Strategic Partnership''.
He indicated that Kenya was neither following Western nor Eastern policies, a reference to US-China rivalry in Africa.
“We believe that there are strengths that can come out from either side,” he said.
“We want to get the best possible deal for Kenya, be it with US, China, Mexico, or whoever we are dealing with,” he said.