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Legislators demand evacuation of Kenyans from Wuhan, China

By Hillary Mageka
Tuesday, February 25th, 2020
Parliament in session. Photo/PD/ File

Senators yesterday continued to pile pressure on the government to evacuate Kenyans from Wuhan city, China the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus as more deaths and cases are being confirmed.

Senators also want Kenya Airways (KQ) and other airlines still flying to and from China stop further flights until the outbreak is contained.

Kenya Airways temporarily suspended all flights to and from Guangzhou starting Friday 31, 2020. Other global airlines suspended their flights to mainland China, after the upsurge of the deadly virus claimed more than 2,004 lives.

Though the government has insisted that blanketed Kenyans in Wuhan will not be evacuated, the lawmakers have asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to personally intervene and evacuate them from the region hard hit by the coronavirus.

Families of at least 100 Kenyan students are stranded in Wuhan City.

Students stuck

“What any responsible country would do is to evacuate Kenyans from the area of danger back to our country,” Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula said. “This is what other countries are doing; Australia and Malaysia have done that. The European countries are also doing that.”

He said it was disheartening to hear the Ambassador to China Sarah Serem asking for prayers for students stuck in the corona virus infected city. “Prayers are good, but this is not a matter that we should look for divine intervention; we need physical intervention,” added Wetang’ula as he called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act with speed and evacuate  the students.

 “They can take one or two plane loads of our students and any other Kenyans living in China and bring them back and stop Kenyans from going to China just like Australia has stopped its nationals until it is declared free of this virus,” he added.

Wetang’ula was making his remarks on statement sought by Nominated senator Sylvia Kasanya on the country’s level of preparedness concerning the Coronavirus.

On Tuesday, National Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani while presenting the budget proposals for ministry, disclosed that his ministry  is yet to allocate funds for emergency evacuation of the students, but clarified money would be provided should the need arise. He said the decision to evacuate them rests with the Foreign Affairs ministry. “If the situation becomes compelling, money will be provided. And we are set,” Yatani said.

Earlier, Siaya Senator James Orengo regretted the remarks of Foreign Affairs Principal secretary Macharia Kamau in what he termed as “a very pedantic and casual manner” in addressing the plight of Kenyans.

Orengo said PS Kamau’s remarks were unfortunate because populations of Kenyans going and living in China; and the Chinese who are coming to Kenya, is a large population. “A lot of people everyday have contact, either directly with people who are working or living in China; or indirectly with people who are coming to places which Kenya is connected to,” he said.

He asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Health to provide statistics of Kenyans who are living in Wuhan.

“As you know, that town is the biggest city in Hubei province, and the population there is very big. There are many Kenyans living in that province. We not only need statistics and data, but also what Kenya is doing in the real sense so that when we are hit, there will be facilities to deal with the problem,” he said.

Strict surveillance

Kisii Senator Prof Sam Ongeri said to contain the disease, all points of entry should be under  strict  surveillance. “I have not seen anything, other than the periodic check at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and possibly at the Moi International Airport, but there should be rigorous checks even at all the entry points, whether from Uganda or Tanzania,” he said.

Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga warned the calamity may hit Kenya if not well handled. “If the victims or students cannot be brought to Kenya, I think the embassy should do much more. I believe there is a way of giving them counseling, if it is online, and also supporting them in terms of food.”

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