Kenya Loses 32 Escapees from Coronavirus Quarantine

Private security guards watching behind the grills before the beginning of a curfew which was ordered by the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus on March 27, 2020 in Nairobi. - Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 25, 2020, ordered a nighttime curfew to …
SIMON MAINA/AFP

In northeast Kenya, 32 people have gone missing from a Wuhan coronavirus quarantine facility under suspicious circumstances, Nairobi News reported on Tuesday. The disappearance comes amid a partial lockdown in Kenya to stem the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

On April 6, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta placed Nairobi on a three-week lockdown, banning entry and exit in four regions of the city most affected by the Wuhan coronavirus. The port city of Mombasa and the counties of Kilifi and Kwale were also locked down.

On Tuesday, the Mandera County government said that 32 people who arrived from Nairobi last week have managed to disappear from a quarantine facility in Elwak town.

In a letter, the county accused local police of colluding with the missing people to facilitate their escape. The group was lost while being transported under a forced quarantine.

“I write to register our displeasure with the manner in which 32 people out of 66 passengers disappeared from quarantine facilities under the watch of police officers,” county executive Ahmed Sheikh said.

Mandera County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha denied the allegations.

“There is a multi-agency team dealing with [Wuhan] coronavirus in Mandera and it is not true that DCC [deputy county commissioner] released people from quarantine. We have launched investigations into the matter and action will be taken against whoever will be found liable,” he said.

Mandera County Governor Ali Roba admitted a lack of enforcement of quarantine rules likely allowed the group of people to escape the facility. He added that this issue would cause the greatest setback for the community in its efforts to curb the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

“Lack of capacity, preparedness, and poor enforcement by our security partners will lead to extreme exposure to [the] pandemic in the county,” he warned in a press briefing on Tuesday.

“From the look of things, it is only through extreme vigilance that we can remain proactive and contain the spread of this pandemic,” the governor said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has threatened a full lockdown of Kenya in an effort to get citizens to comply with quarantine mandates. The partial shutdowns and restrictions already in place have cost many Kenyans their jobs. Without a source of income and with limited access to food, Kenyans have found themselves desperate.

On April 10, thousands of slum residents in Nairobi gathered to receive government food aid. As many tried to force their way through a gate to grab supplies, the crowd surged forward in a brief stampede. Police fired tear gas to subdue the crowd. Several people were injured.

The incident was described as an example of the Kenyan government’s failure to help its millions of urban poor during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, many of whom face illness by the virus or starvation under the country’s lockdown. Roughly 60 percent of Nairobi’s residents live in slums.

At press time on Thursday, Kenya had recorded 234 infections and 11 deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus.

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