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Kenya: No COVID-19 Testing for Travellers Traversing South Rift Counties

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Most counties in the South Rift do not have structures and measures in place to monitor the health statuses of hundreds of people passing through the region.

This is despite an influx of travellers after President Uhuru Kenyatta eased the restrictions of movement.

Following the end of cessation of order for the counties of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera, matatu and bus companies have recorded an increase in the number of travellers heading to rural areas.

Nakuru, Narok, Laikipia and Samburu are some of the areas relying on community health volunteers and community policing personnel to monitor the behaviours of the people travelling to the villages.

NO CAPACITY

In Nakuru, the health department says it has no capacity to check the thousands of travellers for body temperatures or any other symptoms related to Covid-19.

County Public Health Chief Officer Samuel King’ori said Nakuru is a link route to many counties and travellers who pass through the region are mainly destined to other places.

“We cannot test everybody who pass through Nakuru County considering most of the travellers are heading to various destinations. But we have measures in place to monitor those who are coming to Nakuru,” he said.

He noted that the county has placed community health workers in every sub-county who monitor those who travel to their areas and quarantine them when necessary.

ADVERSE EFFECTS

Governor Lee Kinyanjui was the first county boss to oppose the lifting of travel restrictions by the President, saying that the move will have adverse effects on counties with comparatively low infection rates.

“The virus cannot travel on its own and hence increase in human movement translates to higher risk of infections,” the governor said in a statement.

Nyandarua and Laikipia counties too are relying on Nyumba Kumi teams to monitor the movement of people who have been away in Nairobi, Mandera, Kwale and Mombasa counties.

In Narok, Health CEC Morgan Siloma says the county is using Nyumba Kumi officials to monitor the movements of people into the villages and then ask them to commit to self-isolation as part of the extensive surveillance programme meant to minimise the risk of county-to-county transmission.

MONITORING AND SURVEILLANCE

Mr Siloma said security agencies have up-scaled their monitoring and surveillance operations targeting visitors coming in the county from high-risk neighbouring counties including Nairobi where Covid-19 cases have been reported.

Counties neighbouring the South Rift region including Bomet, Kajiado, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Kericho, Kiambu and Narok have already reported coronavirus cases.

“We have escalated our monitoring for persons and visitors returning from neighbouring counties with reported Covid-19 cases,” said Mr Siloma

As a safety precaution, visitors to the regions are asked to self-quarantine at their homes for 14-days even when they do not exhibit signs of the dreaded disease before mingling freely with the rest of the community.

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GATEWAY TO OTHER COUNTIES

Mr Siloma said as a gateway to other South Rift counties, South Nyanza, Tanzania and the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, which has already recorded 28 cases of the virus, remains vulnerable.

Despite the measures being taken to control the spread, most of those interviewed by the Nation said they had not been tested or approached by health officials even after they travelled.

Former Gilgil MP Mathenge Ndiritu was among those who were holed up in Nairobi following the cessation of movement order.

But the former legislator told the Nation that he remained indoors at his residence at the time of the pandemic and rarely ventured out.

His driver, though, underwent testing at Ruaka area and tested negative for Covid-19.

The former MP said he had not been tested and has not been approached by any health official to ask him to commit to self-quarantine.

“Personally, I have never been tested for the virus, save for the normal temperature checks at mall and other outlets,” said Mr Ndiritu.

HARD LIFE IN NAIROBI

Paul Njoroge, a resident of Laikipia, travelled from Nairobi to Nyahururu with his family just two days after the cessation of movement order was lifted.