Kenya ill-prepared to tackle coronavirus outbreak

Wednesday March 18 2020

Kenya and other African nations are not fully prepared for the possible outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

A recent Lancet report on preparedness and vulnerability of African countries against importations of the virus shows that Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ghana and Tanzania are ill-prepared to detect imported cases of the virus.

The report is affirmed by assertions from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that, a survey to assess African countries’ overall readiness for COVID-19, found the regional readiness level at 66 per cent.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said there are critical gaps in readiness for countries across the continent to tackle the virus.

“We need to prioritise strengthening the capacities for countries to investigate alerts, treat patients in isolation facilities, prevention and control in health facilities,” she said.

Most countries in Africa have stepped up their preparedness to detect and cope with the importation of the virus.



The report, which was released last week, further shows that countries with the highest risk of importing the virus are Egypt, Algeria and South Africa.

These countries have moderate to high capacity to respond to outbreaks.

“We assessed the risk of importation of cases of COVID-19 to Africa from affected provinces in China, and contextualised this risk with each country's vulnerability to epidemic emergencies and capacity to respond. Importation risk was determined by the volume of air traffic connections from areas where the virus currently circulates in China,” the report stated.

The novel Covid-19 endemic, which was declared a public health emergency of international concern by WHO on January 30, has spread from the Wuhan Province in China to 25 countries. So far, there are 76,366 cases globally with more than 2,300 deaths recorded.


In Africa, there has been one confirmed case of the disease in Egypt with other countries such as Kenya reporting suspected cases, all of which have turned out to be negative.

Although the overall risk of importation to Africa is lower than that to Europe (1 per cent versus 11 per cent), the Lancet report, however, states that the management and control of COVID-19 importations heavily depends on the health capacity of a country.

“Some countries remain ill-equipped. Some are without the diagnostic capacity for rapid testing for the virus; thus, if cases are imported, tests will need to be done abroad, which might increase the delay from identification of suspected cases to their confirmation and isolation, affecting possible disease transmission,” the report states.


Meanwhile, health officers in Kitui and Makueni counties have denied reports that China nationals who returned into the country are not quarantined.

Medical officers from the two counties assured the communities in the region that sufficient measures have been taken to screen all people entering the country from China and keep them isolated for two weeks before being allowed to resume work.

Dr Richard Muthoka (Kitui) and Dr Andrew Mulwa (Makueni) said their surveillance systems were on high alert to guard citizens against any possible exposure to coronavirus

“We will continue to be vigilant. I would like to assure the public that there’s no case of coronavirus and we will continue doing everything possible to protect our citizens,” said Dr Mulwa.

Dr Mulwa denied media reports that there was a scare among health staff at county hospitals over alleged Chinese patients seeking treatment at Makindu after being moved from Mutomo road construction camp.

Reports by Nasibo Kabale, Sarah Nanjala and Kitavi Mutua