Coronavirus: Kenya says won't evacuate students from China

Wednesday March 18 2020

Outgoing Health CS Sicily Kariuki addresses the press, flanked by other government officials, on Kenya's preparedness for coronavirus response and the state of at least 91 students in Wuhan, China, February 7, 2020. PHOTO | ANNIE NJANJA |NATION MEDIA GROUP


The government will not evacuate at least 91 Kenyan students who are in Wuhan, China, following an outbreak of the deadly new coronavirus.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau told a press conference on Friday that the students are "safe where they are" since China is ensuring their safety.

"China is doing a great job protecting our students where they are. All [the students] are taken care of and well. We admire what China has been able to do. However, we are preparing for all contingencies.," PS Macharia said.

He added, "China is facilitating Kenyans [there] in all possible ways, and keeping them safe as the government looks at options available to respond effectively for the best interest of the students."

Most of the victims were from mainland China.


But an association of Kenyan students in Wuhan, in a letter to the Foreign Affairs office, has appealed for urgent intervention by the Kenyan government, saying they are quickly running out of supplies and are facing psychological torture.

"To date, the embassy has not responded to our letter nor the raised concerns. We are in total darkness," stated the letter signed by officials of the Kenyan Students in Wuhan Association.

"Worst of all, with each passing day the situation in Wuhan gets more unbearable. Some of our students [do not have] food while [others are slipping] into depression due to the fear and uncertainty surrounding this issue."


The government said its interventions concern governance, the diagnostic capacity, screening and training of medical personnel on how to deal with the virus.

In line with this,the Health ministry has set up a 120-bed isolation ward at Mbagathi Hospital as part of preparations to deal with the virus, should it spread to Kenya.

Outgoing Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki announced this on Friday, but also noted that no cases of the virus that originated in Wuhan have been confirmed in Kenya.

The isolation centre, which will be in the new wing at Mbagathi, adds to the 60-bed isolation ward at the Kenyatta National Hospital.


Ms Kariuki also announced that Kenya will receive reagents on Saturday as it moves to equip laboratories with supplies crucial for testing and identifying the virus.

The lack of required reagents, a laboratory mixture, and other crucial kits has over the past few weeks forced Kenya to send samples to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases laboratory in South Africa.

Ms Kariuki said, “We are continuing to build the necessary capacity as a precaution. We expect the reagents and all the necessary test kits tomorrow. We have also heightened our surveillance at the 34 points of entry.”

Kenya has handled seven suspected cases of the virus following the receipt of passengers from China.