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.
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.
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.
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.
Mr Njoroge, who was living with his family of three in Kayole and who, together with his wife operated a food kiosk in the city, says their business was among thousands that have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have been waiting for this moment so that we can travel back upcountry. Life has been very difficult in the city,” he said.
On testing for the virus both for him and his family, Mr Njoroge said that they were yet to be subjected to the test noting.
On his part, Daniel Kimbue said he travelled on Thursday last week from Nairobi where he worked as a hawker and resided in Umoja estate.
He has not been tested but he believes that he is free of the virus, judging by how he has been careful in observing the Health Ministry protocols while in Nairobi.
He said that he has been taking personal initiatives to ensure that his family is safe.
Reporting By Phyllis Musasia, George Sayagie, Macharia Mwangi, Steve Njuguna and Waikwa Maina
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.