The Kenyan government has dismissed public calls to bar flights from China following the Coronavirus outbreak that has so far claimed 2,762 lives in China and 37 other countries.
This comes after a China Southern Airlines flight arrived in Nairobi on Wednesday carrying 239 passengers who were all cleared of coronavirus with the government saying they were advised to ‘self-quarantine’ for 14 days – a move that triggered massive public reaction.
Addressing the press on Thursday, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Health Rashid Aman sought to allay public concerns over the flights from China, saying all passengers are undergoing rigorous screening for the virus before they are allowed to leave China and countries where the outbreak has been reported.
Rashid Aman, CAS, Ministry of Health: There is increased numbers of death in South Korea, Italy & Iran. There are 2 confirmed cases in Algeria & Egypt. A coronavirus case can at this point come in from anywhere, not just China pic.twitter.com/HDpmhtBCY8
— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) February 27, 2020
“An imported case of Coronavirus at this point could come from anywhere and it involves travel and global travel,” he said, adding that the World Health Organization, requires that the Coronavirus outbreak be contained without taking any action that will disrupt international traffic and trade.
Dr. Aman noted that it would be discriminatory to deny entry to individuals travelling from China, pointing out that the affected provinces of China (Wuhan and Hubei) are on lock down, therefore, no one is allowed in or out of those regions as part of prevention measures.
“Stopping the Chinese from coming in is a discriminatory approach given how the virus is spreading. It doesn’t mean that since someone is coming from China they have the virus and need to be barred,” said the Health CAS even as he acknowledged that some countries had taken such measures.
“Even if you stop flights coming in from China… Flights connect from different places and bring in passengers through transit. So it is not a solution to solve the problem now. A point might reach where that may be necessary but we should be careful not to label people in a certain way,” he added.
The Health CAS defended the move to advise the 239 passengers to ‘self-quarantine’ for 14 days, noting that appropriate measures had been put in place to monitor the said cases.
“Self-quarantine means that the individual must remain indoors from other people. All these passengers from China have very strict instructions on how to do it and most of them are doing this with fidelity… We know this because we work close with Chinese Embassy that helps us monitor,” he noted.
According to Dr. Amin there are response teams at the national and county level tasked with monitoring and trackingthe self-quarantined individuals.
He noted that if any of the self-quarantined persons has travelled and is going back to a household that has other people, he/she must remain in a room in isolation and not allow contact with members of the family within the household because of how the virus is transmitted through close contact.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health disclosed that the 239 passengers who arrived at JKIA aboard a China Southern flight included; 198 Chinese nationals, 30 were on transit while the rest were crew.