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Kenya: Residents call for mass testing in Garissa

By Stephen Astariko
Thursday June 4, 2020

WORRIED: A health official in Garissa screens a pedestrian at the Garissa-Tana bridge
WORRIED: A health official in Garissa screens a pedestrian at the Garissa-Tana bridge Image: /STEPHEN ASTARIKO

Garissa residents have called for mass testing in the county saying they fear coronavirus could be spreading among them.

They said people continue to freely interact with those from Wajir and Somalia where cases continue to rise.

Resident Ibrahim Ali, 45, said on Thursday it was not possible that cases in Wajir and Somalia continue to rise, whereas Garissa whose residents interact freely with those in Wajir and Somalia have only a few cases.

Garissa has recorded only a few cases  – by Wednesday, 10 people had tested positive in the county.

Ibrahim said they fear the virus will spread even wider and faster in the region following reports that a number of people may have escaped from Eastleigh in Nairobi and sneaked into Garissa town. Eastleigh is one of the virus hotspots in the country.

On Monday, Garissa county secretary Abdi Ali, while officiating a function in Garissa town, appealed to residents to cooperate with health officials and report to authorities people trying to sneak into the county from other areas.

“My fears could soon become a reality. With the number of those escaping cessation of movement in Eastleigh and our brothers and sisters freely interacting with their border neighbours in Wajir county and Somalia, we have all reasons to get concerned,” Ibrahim said.

Amina Hassan, 25, said the Ministry of Health urgently prioritise Garissa county for mass testing.

She said though Garissa neighbours Wajir and Somalia, 'the government has not found it wise to conduct mass testing'.

“The only way out of this pandemic is to test and isolate those found to be positive. Kenyans must choose between being tested or perish,” Amina said.

“I understand that many Kenyans are not willing to get tested because of the stigma associated with the disease, but we have no choice other than embrace testing and isolation,” she added.

Amina said the Ministry of Health should start another round of campaigns to convince Kenyans to go for testing.

“The government must divert all its energy and resources to make isolation centres friendly and offer free treatment for all those who test positive,” she said.

In mid-March, World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Ghebreyesus said testing, isolation and contact tracing were the "backbone" in the war on coronavirus.

He said it was not possible to "fight a fire blindfolded", and social distancing measures and handwashing would not alone extinguish the pandemic.


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