China plane ‘held’ at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport over virus scare

By Christopher Owuor
Thursday, February 6th, 2020
Passengers wear protective masks at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, Feb. 3, 2020. Ugandan government has stepped up screening for the deadly coronavirus at Entebbe Airport, as the death toll from the illness rises in China and new cases emerge in several other countries. (Xinhua/Nicholas Kajoba)
In summary

George Kebaso @Morarak

Panic gripped Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) for the better part of yesterday as authorities quarantined passengers aboard China Southern Airline flight from China over a coronavirus scare.

A source at the airport confirmed to People Daily yesterday afternoon the plane, which landed  at 7.45 am  from China, was held for close to nine hours before the passengers could be allowed to disembark.

The aircraft was moved from Terminal 18, where passengers were scheduled to disembark, to Terminal 2. 

“The flight was supposed to depart at 1pm but by now (4pm) it is still being quarantined,” said the source, adding that whereas it was not clear how many passengers had been isolated for further screening, the source said information he had indicated close to 10 people had been isolated. 

The source said the port health officials were still holding a number of people, “most of them of Chinese origin for further screening”.

However, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) refuted the allegations dismissing them as “social media stuff”. 

Speaking to People Daily on the phone, KAA’s Angela Tilitei said the airline had not reported any issue, and that all the passengers on board the flight had alighted and screened as required before being  released.

Cleared to land

But in a statement, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority indicated the China Southern Airline flight may not have been properly cleared to land. 

The authority’s director general Gilbert Kibe said KCAA had issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) guiding airlines from China instructing them to inform Air Traffic Control on cases of coronavirus symptoms for timely attention.

“Any suspected cases will be sent to the nearest health facilities through ambulance,” a tweet from the Chinese embassy in Nairobi reads.

“A senior ministry official has confirmed to the Embassy that all passengers by China Southern Airlines arriving at JKIA today were screened and cleared,” the Embassy further said on its twitter page.

Earlier yesterday, a concerned person tweeted: “Today China Southern landed with sick passengers, no one has touched it since 6am, passengers still on board watu wamegoma (people are on a go-slow). Staff at JKIA saying they are working in a very risky environment.”

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