Strict protocols at State House as staff get Corona
Irene Githinji and George Kebaso
The government has introduced stricter access protocols to State House, Nairobi, after the coronavirus found its way into the highly-guarded complex, with four of its employees testing positive.
In a communication yesterday, State House said the infected officers had been admitted to the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital in Kiambu county for treatment.
The move, according to State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena, had necessitated stricter measures to contain further spread of the disease among the employees serving President Uhuru Kenyatta and his family.
In her statement to newsrooms, Kanze said the President and his family were safe and free from the virus.
“To strengthen Covid-19 containment measures, extra access protocols for State House staff residing outside the compound and visitors have been rolled out,” she said.
Sources indicated that sealing off State House option was on the table to protect the staff even as Dena said families and close contacts of the affected officers had been traced and were being attended to.
The People Daily established that the number of engagements at the government’s seat of power had been cut to the bare minimum as part of the new measures to curb spread of the disease.
“It is a serious thing and already measures have been taken to tame the spread of the virus … the number of staff who have been operating at State House has been reduced by a big margin, the number of visitors, too, has been scaled down,” a senior government official briefed on the matter said.
The strict measures come just days after State House hosted a series of meetings, including a prayer meeting over the pandemic, the Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting for both National Assembly and Senate as well as the Madaraka Day celebrations on June 1.
The four patients were identified following mass testing for the virus at State House, which yesterday infected 133 more people in the country, bringing the national tally to 3,727.
Probed further on the extra measures being take to protect the First Family, Dena declined to confirm or deny whether State House will be sealed off, saying: “If that were to happen we will announce it publicly.”
“The current measures put in place by the Ministry of Health are the ones we are talking about which will be further enhanced,” she added.
Measures that have been outlined by the ministry to curb spread of the virus include isolation of infected persons, quarantining of contact persons, partial lockdown of the affected areas, encouraging people to work from home to reduce the number of people in a particular area, and enhanced hygiene measures.
Prof Ken Onkware, the dean at the School of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance at Masinde Muliro university, said following the detection of the four cases, Kenyans should expect reduced activity at State House.
“There will be a lot of social distancing. Political activities will actually minimise. We are likely to see more ‘live’ addresses by the President from State House as a way of reassuring the country that the First Family is okay,” he said.
“If the infections will move upwards we are likely to see some of the staff being told to stay home although that one may not happen immediately.”
News of the State House infections came on the day Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga received his coronavirus-free certificate.
Raila had presented himself for testing on Sunday at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri). As he collected his certificate, the Opposition leader urged Kenyans to voluntarily seek testing so as to know their coronavirus status.
He was given his results by Kemri Molecular Biology Laboratory Director, Prof Matilu Mwau, where the testing for most of viruses is conducted.
“Just received my coronavirus test results which came back negative. I commend Kemri and Prof Matilu Mwau of the Testing Centre, for the professionalism and efficiency displayed. Once again, I appeal to Kenyans to take tests, sanitise and observe social distancing,” Raila said.
“I took the coronavirus test here yesterday (Sunday), and I take this opportunity to appeal to all Kenyans to go for testing. A coronavirus certificate is becoming an important document as we continue battling the pandemic,” he said in a brief ceremony witnessed by mostly staff at the laboratories.
The former Prime Minister took the test against the backdrop of his recent busy schedule at his Capitol Hill offices where he has been receiving numerous delegations ranging from government officials to politicians to members of the foreign diplomatic missions in the country.
Elsewhere, in Nyandarua County, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe who announced the additional 133 new cases, said in the last 24 hours, 33 more patients had been discharged from various health facilities, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,286.
The 133 positive cases bring the total number of those infected to 3,727 with the number of samples tested so far standing at 118,701. However, one more patient succumbed to the disease yesterday, bringing the number of fatalities to 104.
“The number of those infected with the virus continues to rise and as a country, we must take individual responsibility to curtail this,” said Kagwe.
Among the 133 new cases reported yesterday, Mombasa had the highest number at 61, followed by Nairobi with 53 cases, Kilifi had 7 cases, Busia 6, Kiambu had 2 while Kajiado, Nakuru, Murang’a, and Kitui counties had one case each.
All the positive cases were Kenyans, with 93 being males and 40 females while the youngest is one year old and the oldest 70 years.
Kagwe emphasised that home-based care for the coronavirus patients will only happen in instances where the affected people will not spread the disease and will be determined by the viral load.
And contrary to belief, the ministry warned that asymptomatic persons can still spread the virus, hence the need to observe measures it has provided including social distancing and wearing of appropriate masks.