Health authorities in Kitui County are on high alert after workers at a road construction camp in Mutomo were allegedly instructed to keep off a visibly sick Chinese national.
The sick Chinese, who works for Sino Hydro Corporation -- the firm constructing the Kitui-Kibwezi road -- was quarantined and was being served food through the window on instructions of his seniors.
One Kenyan staff -- a cook at the camp -- was instructed to observe the sick man and avoid any contact with him. The patient is said to have jetted into the country over the weekend. He took a taxi from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Mutomo after Sino Hydro Corporation drivers reportedly declined to pick him up from the airport over health fears.
The drivers were reluctant to receive foreigners, most of whom had been on vacation in Wuhan, China's region hardest hit by coronavirus.
The scare over the Chinese national showing signs of possible coronavirus worsened when medical staff who went to assess him were denied access to the camp.
Kitui County Chief Officer for Health Richard Muthoka said workers at the camp raised the alarm but his medical team was yet to establish the nature of the Chinese national's illness.
Dr Muthoka said police were notified to compel the Chinese to allow the medical personnel to access the camp. He said the Ministry of Health headquarters had been informed to give directions on how to handle the matter.
"Our medical team wasn't allowed to access the Chinese camp in Mutomo but we have taken the necessary measures to swiftly establish what is happening and ensure all people working and mingling with the foreigners are safe," said Dr Muthoka.
He said that a team of special medical staff from Afya House, led by acting Director-General of Health Patrick Omwanda Amoth, had been dispatched to deal with the situation at Mutomo.
Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai urged the relevant government departments, including security agencies, to ensure the workers at the construction site and the local community are not exposed to health risks.
The MP said health officials must also ensure strict compliance with a government directive to isolate all Chinese, whether sick or not, for 14 days.
"Even if these people have been tested at the point of entry, we can't afford to take chances. The locals are worried because they are mingling with the Chinese coming from regions with coronavirus outbreak," Dr Nyamai said.
A worker at the construction firm said the patient was among 18 Chinese nationals who arrived in the country last week without being quarantined for 14 days.
"They have isolated only the one who is critically sick. The rest are roaming freely on the Kitui-Mutomo road as they perform their normal duties," said the worker who did not wish to be named.