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Give us our children: Parents cry foul after isolation is extended

Health & Science - By Graham Kajilwa | April 6th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi at Afya House, Nairobi, on April 5, 2020. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The move to extend the quarantine period by another 14 days has thrown into despair parents who have children in mandatory isolation as suspected coronavirus patients.

And a statement sent by Ministry of Health officials in charge of quarantine facilities indicates that there will be no going back on the extension order issued by Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

“I repeat that a lot of these decisions have been made courtesy of invoking the Public Health Act, and activation of the emergency control centre, so even my director is unable to rescind any decisions made,” reads the message seen by The Standard and sent to individuals under quarantine, and their guardians and parents.

Cancelled flights

The order for mandatory quarantine was issued by Mr Kagwe on March 22 before the suspension of international flights took effect on March 25.

It directed that all individuals who come into the country between that day and midnight of March 25 be quarantined in selected hotels and government facilities for 14 days, after which they will be tested for Covid-19.

The cost of the mandatory quarantine, said the CS, would be met the individuals themselves.

In total, the government put 2,050 persons under mandatory quarantine across 14 government facilities and hotels.

A parent who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity said the additional 14 days would not only be financially draining but also devastating to the children held in quarantine.

In her case, she said the Pride Inn Azure Hotel in Nairobi’s Westlands charges Sh9,000 a night. For 14 days, this is Sh126,000. An additional 14 days means another Sh126,000 for a total of Sh252,000.

She said the reason for the extension of the quarantine period is that the hotel where her son is had two individuals test positive for the coronavirus disease.

“So does this mean if they are tested again after 14 days and someone turns positive, the cycle will continue?” she asked.

She said her son could not secure an early plane home after international flights were cancelled in Mauritius, where he is studying, following the announcement of the nation’s first case.

However, after discussions with Kenya Airways, a flight back home via Dubai was secured with Emirates. The plane left on the night of March 22.

She disclosed that a delay in Dubai of nine hours due to a go-slow by airline staff meant her son arrived later than planned, so he fell into the mandatory quarantine bracket.

The first batch of students in an earlier flight, she says, were allowed to go through without any hitches.

“To get this extension is devastating. The children are just depressed, some are having anxiety attacks for something that is not their fault. If some people tested positive, how would they have known they were infected?” she asked.

She insisted that those in quarantine, her son included, have been wearing masks and gloves whenever they step outside.

“All of them adhere to the one-metre distance. You can’t even go to the garden in a group of more than three people at a time. I have visited him twice, but I have to wear a mask and stay one metre away,” she said.

The extension, CS Kagwe said, was informed by the revelation that some people under mandatory quarantine were not adhering to social distancing rules, and had even gone ahead to throw parties in the establishments.

Blanket decision

“So why can’t they pick these individuals and quarantine them for the further 14 days? Why a blanket decision for everyone? We have pleaded with the ministry to even review the CCTV footage to determine the claims, but all we get is, ‘oooh the decision is by a task force’. They can’t even give us a straight answer,” said the parent.

The alternative, she said, is to have children go back home on self-quarantine, a proposal that has been rejected by the in-charge at the facility.

“If anyone prefers or would like to switch to a different site, either a public facility or hotel, please inform MoH officers on site,” reads the message from the official in charge.

It adds that the decision to extend the quarantine period has been made by the national task force in a letter signed by the Health director general, and it applies to all sites that have had positive cases as everyone there is now considered a contact.

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