Kenya: COVID-19 - Governors Want State to Set Up Testing Centres in Counties

The level of county preparedness to handle the Covid-19 pandemic remains low even as some Kenyans troop to villages from towns.

The movement follows lifting of restrictions by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera.

Most counties still do not have facilities to test, trace contacts, admit and successfully manage Covid-19 patients.

The Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya yesterday renewed calls for the national government to devolve Covid-19 testing to counties by helping set up and equip testing facilities.

"At the moment, our biggest challenge is the lack of testing kits in our facilities since this is the responsibility of the national government," said Mr Oparanya.

500 SAMPLES

In Migori, for instance, Health Executive Iscah Oluoch said their major challenge is taking numerous samples to Kemri regional laboratory in Kisumu. He urged the government to set up a laboratory at Isebania border.

"We are testing close to 500 samples daily since the cessation of movement ban was lifted and the main challenge is having them transferred to Kisumu. The government should consider setting up a laboratory in Isebania to enable us to handle more samples," Dr Oluoch said.

Mr Oparanya said at least 26 counties have complied with President Kenyatta's directive to attain the 300-bed capacity as 21 others work to achieve that goal in the next one week.

He said 38 counties had trained a total of 19,177 healthcare workers, and the devolved units are now focusing on creating awareness on home-based care. "It is therefore paramount that every household is trained in a language they understand. I urge all the FM stations, especially vernacular stations, to take on this challenge and train Kenyans about home-based care."

The CoG also wants Nyumba Kumi initiative used to promote surveillance systems for early detection of the infections.

Mr Oparanya said: "It is important to undertake continuous testing especially for healthcare workers. County governments have continued to test workers attending to Covid-19 patients after every two weeks."

The CoG has asked the National Treasury to release allocations to the devolved units without delay.

However, questions have been raised on whether county governments are fully prepared to manage Covid-19 as claimed by most governors.

Senate Minority leader James Orengo, Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said most county governments have not put in place necessary measures to handle Covid-19 cases.

The leaders accused county bosses of lying to Kenyans that their counties are ready to manage an upsurge of infections.

Mr Orengo said the virus may kill a lot of Kenyans if it is not properly managed by county governments.

Mr Orengo said more interventions are needed to strengthen the fight against Covid-19 within counties.

"Covid-19 is a disease that does not judge your level of power. We are witnessing people dying in the United States and Britain yet they are some of the most powerful nations in the world," he said.

Mr Kajwang questioned the level of preparedness claimed by county bosses.

"Management of health systems is more advanced at the national level yet it faces several challenges. County governments too are having difficulties managing the systems," he said.

He said the virus is likely to put more pressure on governors, leaving them unable to manage the health system.

Mr Kajwang said he will use his position as the chairman of devolution and intergovernmental relations at the Senate to ensure that all Kenyans enjoy the fruits of devolution, including good healthcare.

Mr Amollo accused Nyanza governors of laxity in managing coronavirus.

He said the counties are not fully prepared to manage coronavirus and urged residents to take a personal responsibility of keeping themselves safe from the virus.

Reporting by Benson Amadala, Justus Ochieng', George Odiwuor, Ian Byron, Derrick Luvega and Vitalis Kimutai

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