Coronavirus watch: Kenya to close embassy in France

President Uhuru Kenyatta with France President Emmanuel Macron during the latter’s visit to Kenya on March 13, 2019. Kenya will temporarily close her embassy in France tomorrow. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The Kenyan embassy in France will on Wednesday close its offices over the rapid spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the European nation.

The offices will remain closed until Friday, March 27, 2020.

France yesterday imposed a partial lockdown after coronavirus killed 148 people and infected more than 6,600.

Kenyan Ambassador to France, Prof Judi Wakhungu told Standard Digital that the temporary closure will affect all the embassies under her jurisdiction.

She oversees embassies in the Holy See, France, Portugal and Serbia.

“During this period (of closure), all consular services, save for emergencies, will be suspended. Services to be affected include issuance of visas and processing of e-passports,” the envoy said.

Kenyan nationals in the affected countries have been advised to co-operate with advisories issued by their host governments.

“For emergency cases, please contact us on +33156622525, or +33658372954, and WhatsApp numbers +254708243232 or +254720406104,” Prof Wakhungu said, adding that their Facebook page and email ([email protected]) were open.

Ambassador Prof Judi Wakhungu at a past function. [File, Standard]

France lockdown

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered the French to stay at home for 15 days starting midday Tuesday, banning all non-essential trips or social contacts and warning violations would be "punished."

The country had already shut down restaurants and bars, closed schools and put ski resorts off-limits.

About 100,000 police officers will be deployed to enforce the lockdown, AFP reported.

Other European countries have followed similar drastic measured to contain the highly-contagious pandemic.

Italy -- the hardest-hit nation in Europe -- announced another surge in deaths, taking its overall toll to more than 2,000 from a worldwide total of more than 7,000.

Globally, 175,530 cases of the virus that originated from Wuhan, China late last year have been recorded in 145 countries.

What you need to know about the virus

Medically known as SARS-CoV-2, it is responsible for an acute respiratory disease called COVID-19.

The disease is about 10 times more deadly than the common flu and has triggered unprecedented quarantines and conspiracy theories. 

The virus infects the lungs and symptoms begin with a fever followed by a dry cough, tiredness and shortness of breath. This can lead to breathing difficulties.

Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.

When one is infected, it takes five days on average for the symptoms to start showing. This incubation period lasts up to 14 days.

World Health Organization says in severe cases the contagious infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

But this does not mean all infections translate to death, data shows that the mortality rate is between 1 per cent and 2 per cent, with the elderly and people having pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes at a higher risk.

Early research also suggested that men are more at risk of dying from the virus than women, specifically those aged 40 and over. 

Almost 80 per cent of people have mild symptoms and recover from the disease in two weeks. Only about 5 per cent of the cases are critical.

The virus moves from one infected person to another through droplets transmitted into the air from coughing or sneezing.

You can also catch the virus if you touch contaminated surfaces. WHO says it is uncertain how long the virus can last on such surfaces but notes past studies have suggested for a few hours up to several days.

WHO notes that the risk of contracting of the virus is dependent on where a person is.

How do you protect yourself?

Your bet is in regular and thorough hand washing, preferably with soap and running water for about 20 seconds. Medics also suggests using alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

They advise you to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue as you cough or sneeze whilst also avoiding close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms.

If you don’t have a tissue to hand, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.

Virologists are sceptical about the effectiveness of surgical face mask in providing proper protections but say they can be handy against hand-to-mouth transmissions and splashes from coughs/sneezes.

You must know how to use the mask and properly dispose of it.

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with a suspected case.

Avoiding public gatherings and unnecessary travel is advised with reputable public health agencies recommending self-isolation for 14 days after travel from high-risk areas.

Self-isolation might slow the rate of infections, allowing hospitals to treat those requiring attention without getting overburdened.

According to the WHO’s self-isolation guidelines, you need to stay in a room separate from people in your home and make sure shared rooms have airflow.

If you are in a room with other people, keep a distance of at least two metres and wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Covid 19 Time Series