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How Covid-19 is crippling county government operations

Health & Science


Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti greets Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman, during a daily briefing on Covid-19 which was held in Homa Bay County on September 3, 2020. The county will be closed on Wednesday following the outbreak of the virus in its offices. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Covid-19 is rapidly becoming a bother to the county governments by disrupting operations due to infections and deaths in their corridors.

Since the first case was noted in the country on March 13, 2020, a number of counties have been condemned to closures to institute infection prevention measures.

On Tuesday, Nyamira suspended all its operations following a Covid-19 scare in its finance department.

 The action came a day after workers of the entire department of finance were taken in for compulsory testing for Covid-19 after an employee from the Auditor General's office tested positive for the virus.

County Secretary James Ntabo, in a circular dated November 10 instructed the county staff to start working from home.

"This is to ask you to inform all county employees and our customers that county offices will be closed for 14 working days starting Tuesday, November 10, to November 27, 2020," Ntabo's circular read in part.

However, the circular indicated that only critical staffs who must not be under the age of 58 will be allowed to work from select offices.

"During this time, all employees will work from home so as to allow for offices to be fumigated," the communication read.

But when asked, Governor John Nyagarama said the testing was a cautionary measure in stopping any possible spread.

Homa Bay closure

The neighbouring Homa Bay County is also staring at a shutdown scheduled for Wednesday, November 11, after the virus gained entry into its offices.

According to the area governor, Cyprian Awiti, the lakeside county will close to allow for two-week-long cleaning of the buildings before resuming operations.

“We are shutting down operations of the county government for two weeks from Wednesday. This will pave way for fumigation and other routine measures for preventing the spread of coronavirus,” Awiti said.

The county is mourning the death of Communication Director and a veteran journalist Maurice Juma Aluoch who succumbed to the Covid-19 related complications on Monday evening.

Nairobi County has not been spared by the virus. Nairobi County Majority Leader Abdi Guyo told Standard Digital on Tuesday that the assembly mulled closure after it turned out that some members had contracted the virus.

“The number of MCAs that have contracted Covid-19 has increased and is just shy of the number 20 mark. As the leadership, we are yet to collectively discuss whether to close down but I can guarantee you that that is the route we are going to take,” said Guyo.

The County Speaker Benson Mutura downplayed the relevance of closure as the last resort for dealing with the infections. But Mr Mutura encouraged his colleagues to follow the Covid-10 protocols and added that the sittings will continue.

“The proceedings are virtual now. Closure of the assembly is not a solution because even while out there, the MCAs are also at risk of contracting the virus. The best we can do is abide by the ministry of health guidelines" he said.

Deaths of officers

A similar fate befell Uasin Gishu County on October 18, 2020, when County Clerk Shadrack Choge drafted a memo asking 46 MCAs and a number of staff members to leave for a 21-day leave.  This was after Huruma Ward Rep Peter Chomba succumbed to what later emerged as Covid-19-related illnesses. The county was then compelled to roll out Covid-19 testing exercise and fumigation to control the disease.

On October 30, 2020, Kakamega County was also forced into closure after County Chief of Staff Robert Sumbi succumbed to Covid-19 complications at the Kakamega County Referral Hospital.

Some MCAs also tested positive for the disease at the time. In the same period, Bungoma County shut its doors after six MCAs and seven staff members were found with the disease. The closure was an extension for further 14 days.

Kilifi County government also wrote to the County Executive Committee members and the chief officers telling them to scale down operations due to the second wave of infections.

“The new wave of infections in the county has escalated to the extent of infecting some of our own. This, therefore, calls for urgent mitigation measures,” said the county secretary in a memo.

Kenya currently has 63,244 total Covid-19 cases, 42,659 recoveries and 1,130 deaths.

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