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Ban on West Africa passengers takes effect today

19 August 2014, 10:26 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – The Health Cabinet Secretary, James Macharia has said the government’s temporary suspension of entry of passengers into the nation from Ebola-affected countries of West Africa will be enforced Tuesday midnight.

Macharia said the directive suspending entry of all passengers travelling from and through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will be applied to all Kenyan ports of entry to curb the spread of Ebola especially after 29 infected people were released from the isolation wards on Saturday in Liberia by armed bandits.

“Suspending the KQ flights to West Africa for fear of importing Ebola to the nation does not solve the situation. We need to ensure that all ports of entry including those traveling in by water and road are secure by carrying out extensive screening and isolation of suspected victims,” said Macharia.

“If we focus on KQ alone and forget other passengers entering the country, Ebola may be spread without our knowledge. Some passengers may be originating from the affected West African countries but using other  means to get into the country,” he warned.

He asserted that the passenger suspension directive excludes health professionals supporting efforts to contain the outbreak and Kenyan citizens returning home from the three affected countries.

Macharia added that his Ministry has developed comprehensive Ebola Contingency Plan aimed at guiding the implementation of prevention and response activities.

“The Contingency Plan has a total budget of KES 670 916 000. A letter has been submitted to Treasury to request for these funds,” said Macharia.

To further prevent the spread of Ebola into the country, the Health CS reiterated that his ministry has established temporary holding rooms at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for retaining and assessing victims as they wait for transfer to isolation facilities. He added that an isolation facility has also been set up at Kenyatta National Hospital and that possible isolation places have been identified in other health centers across the country.

“The Ministry has secured Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which has been distributed to strategic facilities for use if needed. So far, 1 000 sets of PPE have been distributed in addition to training health staff on dealing with Ebola outbreak,” said Macharia.

He further said the Ministry has set up a 13-member Task Force which has been meeting frequently to discuss local, national, regional and global Ebola situation for three months now in readiness of containing the outbreak of the disease in addition to working closely with other ministries including Transport, Interior, and government departments such as Kenya Airways Authority and Immigration department.

“So far, four suspected cases have been isolated and later confirmed negative after laboratory testing. The aim of thorough screening of passengers is to aid in personal risk assessment and daily follow-up for 21 days if they will still be resident in the country,” asserted the CS.

Macharia said the ministry is also educating the public on safety measures to be undertaken to avoid contracting Ebola in case of any outbreak.   

However, the National Assembly Health committee chairperson, Racheal Nyamai told the Health CS not to request more funds from the treasury in readiness the fight Ebola instead the Ministry should work with the available funds until any cases are reported and the need for more funding is need.

“It will be appropriate if for now you plan with the money you have so that the deficit may be settled with the outbreak of Ebola. We don’t want a case where some officers take advantage of the situation to demand for funds then misappropriate it,” said Nyamai. 

Macharia was responding to the committee’s inquiry over the Ministry’s preparedness to fight any outbreak of Ebola in the country.

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