Anger as forced quarantine extended in Kenya

A worker sprays disinfectant on a security barrier outside a hotel to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) along the streets in downtown Nairobi, Kenya March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi
Kenyan Health Minister, Mutahi Kagwe. /Photo courtesy of Social media

The Kenyan government has extended the confinement of hundreds of people being held under mandatory quarantine after returning from abroad by another 14 days.

Around 2,000 people were placed in forced quarantine as they arrived in the country from March 22 until international flights were banned three days later, a chaotic process criticised by some passengers as likely to have helped spread the coronavirus.

Quarantined Kenyans and foreigners mixed with those who had been in contact with patients who tested positive make up some 80 percent of the country’s coronavirus patients.

The Health ministry set guidelines initially said that those quarantined would be tested after five days and if their results were negative they would be sent home to self-isolate and those who tested positive would be taken to treatment centers.

Kenya recorded 172 cases and six deaths as of Monday at 1400 GMT.

An unknown number of people were discharged however the rest who had hoped to be released after their two weeks were shocked when the government ordered a 14-day extension of quarantine for those in facilities that had registered a positive case.

“We are now asking to go home. They test us, if you’re positive, go to hospital, if you’re negative, go home,” said one of those stuck in quarantine who requested anonymity.

The move is being contested by some of those confined and have sent legal letters to the police and health ministry, which were seen by AFP, demanding their immediate release.

“We are aware that this may be inconveniencing to some but in the interest of protecting the public, it is nonetheless very necessary,” Health Minister Mutahi Kawge said on Tuesday.