Kenya: Counties Sitting Ducks in COVID-19 War as Public Panics

Limited facilities and inability to combat an increase in Covid-19 cases have reduced counties to sitting ducks in the war on the global pandemic.

A spot check by the Nation established that some counties have been forced to increase the number of isolation facilities following a public outcry, yet the devolved units lack vital equipment.

Others are rushing to offer specialised training to health personnel and buy the required equipment.

In some regions, governors and security agencies have been forced to provide security to individuals and families with suspected cases of the disease.

When announcing the first confirmed case in Kakamega County, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said: "Villagers have turned hostile to the victim's family and wanted them out of the community for fear that they could spread the disease."

In Nyamira, county enforcement officers rescued a woman who had just travelled back from Dubai from a mob after she was spotted walking in the streets of Kebirigo.

"A mob was baying for her blood, claiming that she had ignored the requirement to self-quarantine," Health executive Douglas Bosire said.

MARKETS CLOSED

Due to the fear created around those who have come back home from abroad and interacted with friends and relatives, Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama issued a directive that any individual coming back from a country known to have confirmed cases of the virus should notify the county's coronavirus emergency team.

He also reported that a man from the US who was in the news for allegedly failing to self-quarantine had tested negative for the virus.

Test results for members of his family, who had been roughed up by the public, also read negative.

In Kisii, police for the second day engaged with traders in running battles over the closure of open-air markets.

In Homa Bay, residents began feeling the effects of the closure of markets in Kisii and Kisumu counties, as towns ran out of cereals, fruits and vegetables.

The most affected are residents Homa Bay Town, Mbita, Rodi Kopany, Asumbi and Rangwe.

Homa Bay County Giant Traders Association Chairman Godfrey Onduso and Secretary Simon Kwach appealed to the Kisii and Kisumu county governments to allow traders to operate.

"Every market has a special day when traders from other markets gather to sell their products. This is what the county governments should suspend and not entire operations of markets," Mr Onduso lamented.

TAX HOLIDAY

In Narok, the county government shut down a section of Maasai Mara Game Reserve for 14 days to allow testing of seven people who interacted with a person who arrived from South Africa on March 17.

"We are forced to close that side of the reserve until the status of the seven people, who are in isolation, is confirmed," Narok Governor Samuel Tunai said.

In Vihiga County, Chamber of Commerce and Industry officials requested Governor Wilbur Ottichilo to consider a three-month tax holiday for local traders struggling with dwindling business in the wake of the disease.

Dr Billy Nyonje, the Vihiga branch chairman, requested that the deadline for the renewal of licences be extended.

In Busia, an order by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni that the country's borders be closed has affected fishing on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria.

The more than 20 beaches in Busia County have witnessed low activity as fish and food imports from Uganda dwindle following the directive. The price of fish is also expected to rise sharply.

REGULAR SCREENING

Marenga Beach Management Unit chairman Stephen Musee told the Nation that President Museveni's directive would affect at least 1,000 households who depend directly on the lake.

Nyanza Regional Beach Management Unit chairman Tom Guda warned that boat operators and fishermen could be among the weak links in coronavirus response strategies.

"The government has prescribed stiff measures for the public transport sector, including reducing the number of passengers. We are yet to see any measures to control the marine sector, where boat riders ferrying passengers continue to operate as usual," Mr Guda said.

Turkana has screened 23,405 people entering the county, with no incident of Covid-19 reported.

By Nyambega Gisesa, Siago Cece, Winnie Atieno, George Sayagie, Phyllis Musasia, Steve Njuguna, Waikwa Maina, George Odiwuor, Benson Amadala, Ian Byron, Elizabeth Ojina and Derick Luvega

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