The country’s security apparatus was last night racing against time to trace and isolate persons who came into contact with a 27-year-old Kenyan woman who brought home the dreaded coronavirus.
It is an affirmation that triggered a wave of actions with President Uhuru Kenyatta summoning an emergency National Security Council (NSC) to pronounce emergency measures while globally the stakes rose with suspension of major sporting activities.
In the case described by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe as “import case,” the lady traversed two US states - Ohio and Illinois before she landed in London. It is from London that she flew back to the country on March 5.
This means the woman, may have come into contact with the virus in February, if the incubation period of 14 days is to be considered. However, symptoms may also show in less than 14 days which raises the question where she got infected.
Her movements in Nairobi remained hazy but it is believed she went to her Rongai home which by last evening, had been combed by Rapid Response Team for clues and evidence of contacts. She is currently undergoing treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital isolation ward.
“We have our fingers crossed that hopefully, this is and will be the only case,” Kagwe said.
Kagwe said in all the airports she went through, her temperature was taken and she passed through thermo scanners. It is therefore not clear where she contracted the virus.
The woman has been well since her arrival only for the symptoms to set in days later.
Her identity has not been disclosed but Mr Kagwe claimed that she lived alone and took herself to hospital when she started exhibiting the symptoms.
“We have traced the passengers in the plane she came with-both in the front and the rows behind. Some of them are not Kenyans, but we have their contacts,” he said.
Yesterday, however, a team of medics and Rapid Response Team were holed up in Rongai, Kajiado County to conduct what sources called “contact tracing” of all the people she may have interacted with in the last few days. A local health centre was also declared an isolation facility and a team of clinicians who had been trained in handling coronavirus dispatched to the facility. It was not clear how many people the patient had been in contact with.
Saturday Standard got reports that a number of young men who were working from the same house on the ground floor of the five-storey house with the lady had been taken away for further tests.
According to a neighbour who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, the lady may have been staying with a man and a dozen other young men were doing online-related jobs from the same house.
“There are between 10 to 15 men who would visit and work from the house, some of them volunteered for testing last night,” said the source.
The neighbuor said the Rapid Response Team from the hospital had by 11am sprayed the 20 units two and three bedroom houses at the estate where the woman lived.
In Rongai, there was panic in the flat and its environs after the news broke that the lady had COVID-19.
At the press conference at Afya House yesterday, Kagwe was all praises for the woman for going to the hospital for tests and urged other Kenyans to do the same when experience similar symptoms.
“I would like to thank the woman for her courage of coming out for tests. She is a very responsible citizen, she has also cooperated and shared the names of people she could have interacted with,” he said.
?At the briefing, Kagwe and other top government officials were tight lipped on the airline she came in, whether she went to KNH direct or if she passed through the local health centre which has since been taken over.
Yesterday, NSC directed the mobilisation of the national security infrastructure to assist the Kagwe-chaired National Emergency Response Committee on all the precautionary measures announced to contain the virus.
It also approved the recruitment of additional medical personnel on an emergency basic contract to support the precautionary management measures to enhance surveillance and check any possible spread of the coronavirus in the country.
“All National Government Administration Officers in the country, are immediately to ensure that all the measures announced including continued public awareness on the role of hygiene in the prevention of the spread of coronavirus, and discouragement of mass gatherings and meetings and continued monitoring and surveillance are put in place,” a statement said.
The Council also called on Kenyans to “remain calm, and continue with their regular day-to-day activities but be vigilant, observe good hygiene and self-quarantine where necessary.
The US and United Kingdom where the lady passed through have reported cases of coronavirus. As of March 13, there were more than 1,600 confirmed cases and 41 deaths in the US.
Washington has the highest cases standing at 406 with 31 deaths, followed by New York with 325 cases, California with 198 cases and four deaths and Massachusetts with 108 cases.
Ohio, which is the state where the Kenyan woman’s journey began has so far five cases. Chicago city in Illinois where she passed as she transited to London has 25 cases. Yesterday, Kagwe assured the country that there was cause no panic as the patient is in stable condition.
“Her temperature is normal, she is behaving normally, she is eating but she cannot be released until she tests negative,” Kagwe said.
[Additional reporting by Jacob Ng’etich]