There will be more flights from China to Nairobi in the coming weeks, the Chinese embassy has confirmed, amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak in Kenya.
Planes carrying Chinese expatriates, workers and traders are expected to land at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) despite the government’s refusal to evacuate Kenyans stuck in the country, where the deadly virus originated.
On Wednesday, the embassy confirmed that China Southern Airlines had resumed flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi.
A statement to newsrooms said, however, that there will be just one flight a week until March 25.
The embassy said it notified Kenya’s health ministry in advance of the screening of all the travellers for the virus named Covid-19.
They were all cleared and advised to self-quarantine for 14 days, the statement said, without detailing the measure.
It added that more information on monitoring was given to the Kenyan ministry.
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo told the National Assembly Committee on Foreign Relations that there was no need to worry about the flights from China.
Guidelines by the World Health Organisation were adhered to in clearing the passengers, she said, adding those who entered Kenya were ministers and that they were asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Taken to task over the evacuation of Kenyan students in China, Ms Omamo reiterated the government’s position – that at the moment, there are no plans to bring the learners back.
“The Kenyan embassy in Beijing is offering support to the students. We are aware of the possible psychological stress they may be under at the moment but as of today, the government has made no decision to evacuate the students.”
The CS added, however, that the inter-ministerial committee that has been in constant communication with the students reviews the position regularly.
Ms Omamo further noted that the 45 countries that have evacuated students from China have reported cases of the coronavirus despite their health systems.
“No country in East Africa has evacuated … we believe the best way is to supply them with resources and all the support we can through the embassy in Beijing,” she said.
The ministry issued a travel advisory to all Kenyans against visiting countries with mass infections.
“Kenyans are advised against non-essential travel to countries experiencing the outbreak. This is in view of the expanding geographical [reach] of the outbreak across the world,” it said in a statement.
Kenyans were also urged to maintain hygiene and avoid contact with persons exhibiting symptoms such as fever, coughs, difficulty breathing and sneezing.
Africa has recorded its first two cases of the disease, in Egypt and Algeria.
By Wednesday evening, 2,770 people had been killed worldwide by the virus, forcing more countries to impose barriers in efforts to keep the disease at bay.
At least 80,000 are infected globally according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which said the rapidly spreading disease had attained “pandemic potential”.
Considering how quickly the virus spreads, the general view is that Kenya is exposing its people to the virus yet it likely does not have the capacity to contain an outbreak.
While reports indicate that the number of infections in China has stabilised, there is no telling what an outbreak would mean for vulnerable countries with poor healthcare systems
Kenya has had three false alerts so far and the Health ministry has reported negative test results for 17 suspected cases.