Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo has defended the government’s move to allow a flight carrying 239 passengers from coronavirus-hit China into the country.
Appearing before National Assembly’s Departmental Committee for Defence and Foreign Relations on Thursday, Omamo said the flight was dealt with in accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
Health Ministry said that the flight only had 13 Kenyans, 198 Chinese nationals and the rest were on transit.
She, however, did not specify the guidelines that the plane was subjected to. “Those who were on it were monitored and have been asked to self-quarantine,” she said.
The CS could not account for the nationality of the passengers saying it was difficult to ascertain their countries of origin.
“Some of the passengers were wearing face masks, I wouldn’t be able to tell if they were from India, China, Elgeyo-Marakwet or Kisumu,” said Omamo.
Omamo’s answers, however, did not sit well with the committee members as Belgut MP Nelson Koech termed them as underwhelming and sickening.
“Your answers are underwhelming and sickening, the government must be serious; we have locusts to fight, we can't fight coronavirus,” Koech told Omamo.
Omamo responded: “I am sorry that you find my answers to be underwhelming. I don’t know what language to use to reveal how the Government is committed to tackling this issue.”
Irked by the 'self-quarantine' statement, MPs asked Omamo to suspend flights from China immediately.
“We are not a serious country. How do you monitor self-quarantine? Let’s ban flights from China,” said MP Martha Wangare.
Another legislator added: “Kenya's health institutions are weak, how can we allow 239 people at a go? The Ministry of Interior should tell us why these entry points are compromised.”
Omamo told the committee that the decision to suspend the flights will be deliberated by the cabinet before making a pronouncement.
The CS further added that the government is more concerned with Kenyans trapped in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus than flights from China.
“Our focus is on those students in China. They are in lockdown and we have to deal with them in a more delicate and sensitive way,” she said.
Omamo ruled out the possibility of evacuating at least 100 Kenyans in Wuhan, 91 of them who are students and two expectant.
“We are continually monitoring the students. We are channelling our support through our Embassy in China and the Chinese Government,” she said adding that the students are in a position of receiving better healthcare in Wuhan.
The CS said the government disbursed Sh8.5 million to support the students through basic needs supplies.
None of the students is infected with the deadly virus.