World stares at lockdown as Italy, Denmark effect mass quarantine 

Wednesday March 18 2020
By ELIZABETH MERAB
By NASIBO KABALE

The world is fast hurtling towards self-imposed isolation, with Denmark joining Italy as the other European nation under quarantine.

Indications show that many more countries will go down that path as the coronavirus that caused Covid-19 spreads across the world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on Wednesday evening. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a terse statement that this is the first time the world is battling a pandemic against a coronavirus disease.

The disease, Covid-19, is caused by a family of viruses, some of which can infect people and animals and are viewed as crown-like spikes under a microscope.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus,” he noted while delivering his statement in Geneva.

Containment strategy

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Dr Ghebreyesus asserted that the declaration does not mean countries should abandon their efforts to contain the spread of the virus. He said it would be a mistake to abandon the containment strategy.

“This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector. So every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight,” he said.

Almost 125,000 infections have been reported from 118 countries and territories. In the past two weeks, cases reported outside China have increased almost 13-fold while the number of affected countries has almost tripled, Dr Ghebreyesus revealed.

Six new countries in Africa — Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Togo — have reported confirmed presence of Covid-19 cases. Algeria, Nigeria and Senegal have also confirmed cases in the past week.

As of Wednesday, 47 confirmed cases were reported across nine countries in the region — Algeria (20), South Africa (13), Senegal (5), Nigeria (2), Cameroon (2), Burkina Faso (2), Côte d’Ivoire (1), Democratic Republic of Congo (1), and Togo (1). No deaths have been reported.

“In the rest of the African continent, a total of 66 confirmed cases were reported from three countries: Egypt (59), Tunisia (5), and Morocco (2),” the statement from the WHO situation report noted.

Meanwhile, President Kenyatta has ordered a budget review to dedicate funds towards the prevention and management of the coronavirus and to cushion the economy against its negative effects.

He said this when he received the tentative report of the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus. County governments have set aside two percent of their budgets to deal with a possible outbreak.

Council of Governors (CoG) chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said all counties had set up multi-agency emergency response committees at all Level Four and Five hospitals. He said counties that do not have money will be required to prepare supplementary budgets. He added that emergency operations centres had been activated in all counties and rapid response teams are on standby.

CoG Health Committee chairman Mohamed Abdi Kuti (Isiolo) said counties had received 5,000 protective kits while the 14 counties categorised as high-risk had received 10,000 of the gear.

The setting up of county isolation units came about when President Kenyatta admitted that “there is demonstrable and compelling public interest in further upscaling Kenya’s level of preparedness”.

The President, through an executive order, said more needs to be done in the event of an outbreak of the virus.

He ordered the establishment of 38 Level Five and referral hospitals as isolation and treatment facilities. He also directed national, county and private isolation and treatment facilities to marshal local and international human resources. The committee said Kenya has not registered any case but all travellers were being screened and monitored.

It added that backup capacity has been set aside at Kenyatta University Teaching Research and Referral Hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, as well as in private hospitals.