Kenya allows evacuation of Covid-19 patient from Juba

A new innovation that makes it possible to ventilate two patients with one mechanical ventilator at Aga Khan University Hospital. [Courtesy]

Kenya has allowed the evacuation to Nairobi of a United Nations staff who tested positive for Covid-19 in Juba, South Sudan.

The 53-year-old woman, who had been on self-quarantine since her arrival from Nairobi on March 23, tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, according to South Sudan authorities.

“On Monday, we received an alert from UN Level (I) Clinic and our team was immediately mobilised. The health official said the woman was showing flu-like symptoms on Monday, with a coronavirus test coming back positive this morning,” said Dr Angok Gordon, the coronavirus incident chief at the Ministry of Health.

Kenya, which has banned all international flights, confirmed it had sanctioned the evacuation of the UN staff, but denied reports that other South Sudan patients were to be airlifted to Kenya.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the known case was for the UN staff who had travelled to Juba from Nairobi.

“This is a different case. This patient has sought to be brought back and Foreign Affairs has to liaise with the Director General, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, for landing rights,“ said Mr Macharia, referring to Gilbert Kibe.

Though the nationality of the UN staff is unknown, the CS denied knowledge of any other case touching on Sudan nationals.

“For Sudan nationals, they will have to engage the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health. They are the ones who can engage and see if there is a possible way,” said Macharia.

Permission request

He said the Sudanese Embassy would have to put in the request formally and seek permission from relevant ministries.

There had been reports that some VIPs from South Sudan infected with the virus had sought to be evacuated to a hospital in Nairobi.

They include a high-ranking member of President Salva Kiir’s government and his children. He is reported to have travelled to Berlin, Germany, but on arrival in Juba, caused drama at the airport and refused to be screened.

They later developed Covid-19 symptoms and reports suggested the group sought to be brought to Nairobi for treatment.

“Treat this as a rumour. We have no Sudanese patients evacuated to Kenya except the one who got prior approval and is already here,” said a senior official from Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But The Standard established yet another VIP from South Sudan - a former deputy Minister for Transport Malek Kuoc Mayom - had been allowed to be airlifted to Nairobi for specialised treatment. However, his illness is not related to Covid-19.

Kenya, in a diplomatic letter to Juba on April 6, permitted the evacuation of Mr Mayom on condition that “no passengers are allowed to accompany the patient as they will be placed under mandatory government of Kenya quarantine facility for 14 days”.

“The ministry wishes further to request the esteemed embassy to identify and provide this ministry with names of persons based in Nairobi who will take care of the patient while at the Nairobi Hospital in Kenya,” said the letter.