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Somalia border counties put on alert over virus importation

Wednesday August 12, 2020
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe during a Covid-19 briefing at Afya House in Nairobi Image: MAGDALINE SAYA
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe during a Covid-19 briefing at Afya House in Nairobi Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

The government has urged residents of counties bordering Somalia to be vigilant, saying people were still importing coronavirus from the neighbouring country.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on Monday said people must remain alert.

Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu counties all border Somalia where cases of Covid-19 continue to rise.

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Kagwe's caution came after Garissa on Monday recorded 52 new Covid-19 cases, the second-highest for the day after Nairobi. The new infections pushed Garissa's total caseload to 168.

Wajir had 30 cases, Lamu 36 and Mandera 26 as on Monday. Mandera was among counties that were put on partial lockdown by President Uhuru Kenyatta in April to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In May, President Kenyatta closed the Kenyan border with Somalia following increased cross border infection, with cargo drivers being subjected to mandatory Covid-19 testing.

“I think it is very important that Garissa, Mandera, Wajir and the counties that neighbour our brothers in Somalia be on the lookout and be careful because we have no doubt that there are cases coming in from the neigbourhood,” Kagwe said during his Monday Covid-19 briefing in Kericho.

Somalia has seen a steady increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. So far, the country has confirmed 3,200 cases with 1,700 recoveries and 93 deaths.

The increase in positive cases has been attributed to cross border movement by residents of either side.

“This kind of movement is what causes the spread of the virus. For those communities that live along the border, especially those borders that are porous and difficult to monitor, we want to encourage you to be your brother’s keeper,” Health CAS Rashid Aman cautioned during a previous briefing.

He added, “Be vigilant and when you see people coming across from the other side you inform the authorities so that those people can be tested and isolated if necessary.”

The government says the only way to stop the importation of the virus is by residents keeping an eye along the borders and reporting any movements across the border.

IGAD has been at the forefront and continues to support national and regional interventions, especially among cross-border mobile populations that include traders, truckers, nomadic pastoralists and refugees.

According to UNDP, the impact of the virus on the socio-economic activities in the country will expose the already vulnerable and marginalised communities to more suffering.

“Development challenges are huge in Kenya, especially in the frontier counties of the northern region (Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit, Tana River, Wajir and Lamu) which have for a long time been economically marginalised, suffered fragility, instability, poverty and insecurity,” the agency said.

The UN agency said it is critical to safeguard these regions against the impacts of Covid-19 and ensure that the recent development gains are not reversed.


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