Police stations could be hotspots, say MPs

A parliamentary committee has warned that police stations could turn out as super spreaders of Covid-19 if enhanced measures are not taken.

The National Assembly Committee on Administration and National Security decried lack of effective measures to handle the pandemic, warning that the facilities remain a risk to officers and remandees.

After an inspection tour of 18 police stations in Nairobi and others in Kajiado, the committee informed the House of the dire situation in the facilities.

It said the Ministry of Interior should address serious shortfalls that have made the stations risky places for the officers and those seeking services in them. The committee, in a report tabled before the National Assembly, says despite the high number of officers in some of stations in Nairobi – some with as many as 400 – there was little sensitisation or training on how the officers should carry out their duties without exposing themselves.

Among the highest populated stations are Embakasi with 469 officers, Central 400, Langata 355, Kasarani 322 and Kamukunji with 300.

Basic protocols

The committee, chaired by Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange, says the stations have insufficient facilities and rooms to ensure such basic protocols as social distancing among officers are followed.

Compounding the situation is the fact that the facilities are frequented by hundreds of Kenyans seeking services.

“It was worrying to note that due to inadequacy in office space, social distancing is not possible. Officers are sharing office way above the optimal capacity,” reads the House team report. “In some stations, senior police officers in the rank of Inspector and above, who are heading departments in some stations are sharing offices, sitting close to each other, which should not be the case.”

No training

The committee also noted that police officers are not well trained on how to handle a Covid-19 case, either among themselves or suspects in their custody.

“Police officers interviewed from different stations gave varied positions on how they would handle a Covid-19 case, with some exposing ignorance that showed they could expose themselves,” states the report.

The committee said despite the police officers being in the front-line in management of Covid-19, especially with their extra duties of ensuring curfews are adhered to, they are not paid any special allowances as is the case with other front-line workers.

The stations are rarely fumigated, as should be the case, with revelations that majority of them were fumigated only once.

“We encourage the Kenya Police Service and the Ministry to ensure that these facilities are frequently fumigated and they all have at least a holding facility for any case suspected to be a Covid-19 case,” reads the report.

It said some stations were using some cells as temporary holding facilities before the cases are transferred to government approved facilities.

But it was the lack of proper equipment among officers that was a shock to the parliamentary committee.

The report noted that even those in close interaction with members of the public lacked advanced personal protective gear like the disposable full face shield, medical gowns, filtering face piece respirators, gloves and shoe covers.

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