Kenyans reveal poor state of Covid-19 isolation centres

Monday March 30 2020
quapic

Kenyans who arrived on March 24, 2020 seek accommodation at PrideInn Hotel; they are required to self-isolate as a way of fighting Covid-19 outbreak. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ANGELA OKETCH
By CHARLES LWANGA
By SAMWEL OWINO

You have 24 hours in a day.

The only catch is that you are supposed to spend them alone, without any physical contact with the outside world.

That is the life that those being asked to self-quarantine are living. And the more than 14 days of solitude are changing the way people are living in a major way.

Taita-Taveta MP Naomi Shaban, who is on self-quarantine after returning from a London trip, has been operating from her bedroom, taking calls and serving her constituents from the comfort of the room.

She only leaves when she exercises within the house. “We are not taking any chances as a family considering that we were in contact when I came back,” Ms Shaban says.

Tracking coronavirus

Due to the quarantine, she recounts, she finds herself with a lot of time in her hands and her schedule had to entirely change.

In the morning after breakfast, she says she lazies around the house, then exercises before eating fruits and then reads.

SELF-QUARANTINE

She says she misses her mother, constituents and even hugging her children.

“The children are with me in the house; I talk to them more often but I can’t hug them because we have to observe the social distance rule,” she says.

“Deep inside, I miss my constituents; I’m used to interacting with them more often when I visit the constituency. I usually don’t sleep up to midnight talking to my constituents. In the morning, I wake up and take breakfast with them but now I can’t do that,” she adds.

Her biggest lesson during this time? She takes a deep breath and says, “I have learnt that we are all equal and that this disease cannot spare anybody and all of us are vulnerable no matter who we are. The virus is an equaliser.”

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi began his mandatory 14 days self-quarantine last week on Thursday after coming into contact with his deputy Gideon Saburi, who turned Covid-19 positive after returning from Germany.

“I am actually working from home, still discharging my duties like I would have done were it not for this quarantine,” he tells the Nation on phone.

STRESSFUL EXERCISE

His life now revolves around his home in Nyali, away from his usual diarised busy schedule, where everything is meticulously planned, with aides at his beck and call, a driver, bodyguards and chase cars.

He has to depend on technology to work, as he counts down the 14 days to the end of the quarantine period.

On a normal day, after waking up early in the morning, he goes to the office at around 9am where sometimes he attends meetings as well as handles other executive duties.

He now gets hourly briefing from the team in Kilifi to enable him make executive decisions.

“I am in touch with Health Cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe almost every day pushing to have the necessary medical items reach Kilifi, especially those meant for our front-line soldiers,” he says.

Mr Kingi adds other than office work, he spends his time following news on his phone and TV to enable him make informed executive decisions.

Land Chief Administrative Secretary Gideon Mung’aro, who is also undertaking self-quarantine, following his exposure to those close to Mr Saburi, says that the quarantine is the most stressful part of his life since he has been “confined to one place without interacting with people”.

Mr Mung’aro began his quarantine last Sunday after Kilifi deputy governor, whom he accompanied to a funeral in Rabai, turned out to be Covid-19 positive.

DEPLORABLE CONDITIONS

The CAS says the normal eight hours at work now seem like a month at home, but he is determined to complete the 14-day quarantine.

“After the 14 days, I will do another Covid-19 test. The first test which I underwent on Tuesday turned out negative,” he says.

Kilifi Woman Rep Getrude Mbeyu Mwanyanje said she is working from home and her phone is ever busy since people know she is on quarantine.

“Being a mother, I work from the bedroom where I use my phone to make calls and give orders. The little children cannot understand why I am locking myself in my bedroom and it is tough,” she says.

Ms Mbeyu, who also came into contact with Mr Saburi at a funeral, says she feels sorry for low-income residents who depend on daily earnings to put food on the table and appealed to Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa to distribute relief food to them.

But others are not as lucky to be at home. Kenyans who flew back from abroad have been forcibly quarantined under what they are calling “harsh conditions”.

Mr Kennedy is one of them. He has severally requested the public health officers to transfer him to another facility since he is at risk of contracting the disease at the Kenya Medical Training College. The environment, he says, is not conducive.

“We are using a communal bathroom, which is very dangerous. People are spitting in the shared sinks and movement is not restricted. I want to be taken to a better facility,” says Mr Kennedy.

RISK OF INFECTION

He does not have a problem being quarantined, but all he needs is a closed and restricted hotel. He has eight more days to go.

“It’s like everyone who could not afford other hotel rates was brought here. This is a student hostel … all the washrooms are shared,” he says.

Mr Moses Kamau, who is at Kenyatta University, is very happy with how the facility has ensured that their movement is limited to avoid any infection.

“I am happy that the health officers are monitoring us and anyone with symptoms is isolated for further check-ups. This is for the good of Kenyans,” he says.

A similar narration is coming from those staying at Boma Hotel despite the high cost of accommodation.

Mildred (not her real name) says she landed in the country at 3pm on Tuesday and was forced to self-quarantine.

The public health official read the designated facilities and she chose KMTC since that is what she could afford. It will cost her Sh28,000 for the entire stay.

“While I appreciate the effort that the government is putting into feeding us and providing us with bedding (which we are paying for), our experiences are damaged by the poor hygiene standards at KMTC. The bedbugs are also a menace,” she says.

In a quarantine environment, people should not mingle, but at KMTC, Mildred says they share bathrooms and there is lack of specialised care for the aged and pregnant people.

FORCED TO SIGN

She alleged that their movement is not restricted as they go for meals together and even visit each other in their rooms.

“Why the government did not want us to mingle with our families is because of the risk of infection. But why don’t they ensure that those in the quarantine facilities do not mingle? It is advisable that we don’t even leave our rooms,” she says.

She continues: “Here it is very easy for one to escape. If it were not for the heavy bags, none of us would be here.”

Ms Clarice Wambui, who is also housed at KMTC, told the Sunday Nation that she was beaten up by police officers when she refused to sign forms committing to pay accommodation money at the end of the incubation period (14 days).

“I am a student and came back with nothing. I don’t have the money to pay for my accommodation and when I told the officers, I was beaten up,” she says.

She continues: “Why are we being treated like prisoners? What should I do if I don’t have the money?”

Every day at midday, rooms at Pride Inn, Westlands, are closed and every one housed there has to pay Sh9,000, according to Chris Otieno.

“When we were at the airport, the officers told that we were going to pay Sh6,000 per night, only for the hotel to charge us Sh9,000 yet movement is not restricted and we are sharing corridors and lifts.”

RULE OF LAW

Mr Otieno, who landed in the country on Monday, alleged that some people were sneaked out of the hotel with the help of top government officials.

“We were checked in with some Indians related to Kibos Sugar owner; they are not here. People are not treated equally in this country. If this is really for a good cause and we want to win against the virus, then everyone should obey regardless of your status in the society,” he said.

Mr Kagwe had earlier requested the hotel managements to avoid overcharging those staying in their facilities, since this is a business they did not expect and it seems this was not adhered to.

“If you are charging Sh12,000, the best thing to do is to slash it by 50 per cent and even 25 per cent,” he said.