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Commentary
The coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan in China last year, has understandably caused panic across the world.

The coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan in China last year, has understandably caused panic across the world.

By yesterday, the virus, now known as Covid-19, had killed over 2,000 people, mostly in mainland China. It had infected more than 75,000 people, over 1,000 of them outside China.

The coronavirus has spread to 26 countries across the world so far. Egypt is the only country in Africa with coronavirus after it confirmed one case on February 14.

Globally, countries have taken all manner of measures to tackle the virus. China has imposed a lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province to prevent the virus from spreading.

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Russia has closed its 4,200km border with China, restricted flights and stopped the issuance of electronic visas to Chinese nationals. The US has denied entry to foreign nationals who have visited China in the past 14 days. Australia has also taken similar measures.

At points of entries, most countries, Kenya included, are looking out for signs of coronavirus mostly by taking passengers’ temperature.

But unlike many other countries, Kenya is not paying much attention to visitors from China. It seems visitors from China are being let off after passing the “temperature test”, just like passengers from the rest of the world.
What other countries are doing is to place anyone, including their nationals, arriving from China on a 14-day compulsory quarantine.

This ensures, if any of the visitors is infected, that the virus is not passed on to the larger population. The virus has a 14-day incubation period and therefore one may have it and still transmit it to others without knowing that they have it.

That’s why it was reckless for Kenya to allow in the Chinese nationals who have caused a scare in Kitui and Nakuru without putting them on quarantine. Luckily, coronavirus tests on them have turned negative.
But we cannot continue relying on luck. The government must urgently start putting anyone coming from China on quarantine — for 14 days.

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Notably, the Chinese ambassador understands the importance of quarantine and has asked any Chinese to seclude themselves for 14 days on coming to Kenya. But this is impractical. It is hard to monitor whether they will follow the directive or whether they would have passed on the virus to others on their way home if they are infected.

Of course quarantining the passengers would be expensive and perhaps that’s why the government is not doing it. But, unfortunately, that is the cheaper option. Despite its threat to lives, dealing with a coronavirus outbreak, as China has taught us, is a most expensive affair. We simply don’t have the human and financial capital to deal with such an emergency.


Wuhan Coronavirus China Kenya KAA

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