Kenya Defends Decision to Clear China Flights Amid Virus Alarm

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
27 February 2020

Kenya said Thursday it was not planning to ban flights from China over coronavirus fears, insisting it is following World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines in managing the situation.

China Southern Airlines flight that had suspended operations to Nairobi resumed Wednesday, landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with 239 onboard, sparking uproar from the public.

"That flight was dealt with in accordance with WHO guidelines and passengers were asked to self-quarantine," said Racheal Omamo, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary who appeared before the National Assembly Defense and Foreign Relations Committee.

The resumption of the Southern Airlines flight on the Nairobi route dominated conversations, including on social media, forcing the Health Ministry to call a press conference to assure the public on measures taken.

"This is a global problem, not a Chinese problem," said Dr Rahid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Health Ministry, "there will be no complete ban on Chinese coming to the country. We have not reached there."

He said anyone arriving from the virus-hit country is advised to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr Aman had a hard time explaining to journalists measures taken to follow up on those under self-quarantine. "It is a matter of honesty."

Kenya is yet to evacuate more than 100 Kenyans, mainly students from Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly virus that has killed more than 2000 people worldwide, many of them in China even though 26 deaths have been reported in Iran.

"The Kenyans in Wuhan are safe and all of them have tested negative of the virus. We see no need as a government to bring them back home yet the Chinese government is taking good care of them there," Omamo told legislators.

Japan said Thursday it had closed schools until March over virus fears after recording 4 deaths.

"The government considers the health and safety of children above anything else," Abe said.

"We request all primary, junior high and high schools... across the nation to close temporarily from March 2 next week until their spring break."

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