Kenya: It's Too Soon to Close Covid-19 Isolation Centres, Health Ministry Tells Counties

21 September 2020

The Ministry of Health has asked counties to stop closing Covid-19 isolation centres as this will put lives in danger should there be a surge in cases.

Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman, while giving the country's status report on Monday, also warned counties against easing restrictions set by the ministry.

"This can be detrimental in case of a surge. Let us not drop the guard because we have not yet defeated Covid-19," said Dr Aman.

"The closure of isolation centres, especially in Nakuru, is not wise. I urge all counties to maintain isolation centres and other facilities set up to fight the disease as well as measures outlined by the ministry."

He reported 98 new infections, which raised Kenya's tally of declared cases to 37,079, including 23,949 recoveries and 650 deaths.

Fewer cases

The ministry's warnings came after it emerged that counties including Nakuru had started closing isolation centres.

Last week, Nakuru shut down the Langalanga and Bondeni isolation centres, Health executive Kariuki Gichuki saying the number of Covid-19 patients requiring admission had significantly dropped.

The more 50-year-old Bondeni Maternity Hospital in Nakuru was converted into an isolation centre in July, the fear being a surge in the number of infections, especially in slums. It had a capacity for about 80 patients.

Several other health facilities, including about 10 dispensaries and health centres in the 11 sub-counties, were also converted.

At the time, expectant women were referred to the Margaret Kenyatta Mother and Baby Wing at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital and the nearby Rhonda Maternity Hospital.

Before the outbreak, Bondeni had been revamped and had been serving mothers from slums including Kivumbini, Lake View, Kwa Rhoda, Kaptembwa, Flamingo, Kaloleni and Bondeni.

Residents, health experts and activists protested against its conversion, saying it would erode the region's gains in maternal healthcare.

Too soon

When Bondeni once again started offering services to pregnant women, county health authorities said the decision to revert it to its original state was informed by the drop in the number of Covid-19 cases reported in the region and in the country at large.

However, CAS Aman said it is too soon for counties to take such measures.

Nakuru has so far recorded at least 870 cases of Covid-19 including 410 recoveries. Since March 13, when the outbreak of the virus was announced in Kenya, the country has tested 13,224 people.

Nakuru eventually introduced home-based care for asymptomatic patients alongside other counties in Kenya.

At least 320 patients in the county have undergone home-based care and so far, only about ten people are admitted to various health facilities there.

Nakuru is one of 14 counties whose residents are at high risk of contracting the virus because of its proximity to Nairobi and its state as a transit county.

It falls along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway, which is part of the northern corridor and is the most important road to Western Kenya and the artery that connects Kenya to the landlocked countries of Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.

The road is used to transport most West-bound cargo from the port of Mombasa and Nairobi, which are the virus epicentres in Kenya.

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