The closure of some quarantine centres and release of about 1,600 people who had been in isolation have injected fresh hope in the war against Covid-19.
But those are just milestones and do not, in any way, suggest that all is well. The fear of aggravation of the coronavirus is real and the necessity for continued surveillance and alertness paramount.
Yet there are issues that require attention. The government identified and designated several schools across the country as quarantine centres.
This was informed by projections that the number of coronavirus infections would multiply several times and reach a situation where medical facilities and other government institutions would not cope.
The understanding was that infections would extend throughout the country, hence requiring additional facilities to hold the quarantined people.
Going by the estimates, infections were expected to reach 5,000 by mid-month and double at the end of April. Fortunately, the numbers have been manageable and, concurrently, recoveries gone up.
Even so, the concern has been, and remains, the way quarantine centres are being managed.
Specifically, we are alarmed over the lack of support for the schools being used to hold those in isolation.
Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KSSHA) has faulted the government for failing to provide financial and logistical support to the institutions, forcing them to dig deep into their resources to support those who are in quarantine.
With schools closed, their facilities can be used for public-spirited initiatives such as quarantine. But they do not have the funds to care for those individuals.
They require money for provisions such as sanitisers, face masks and gloves to guarantee the safety and comfort of those being quarantined. But they have none.
KSSHA chairman Kahi Indimuli observes that schools have been forced to use own resources to provide food and accommodation to the individuals.
Yet schools do not have provisions for such in their budgets. Keeping people in quarantine is expensive.
The Ministry of Health and the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus need to address the matter quickly.
It is not lost on anyone that teachers’ unions have objected to turning of schools into isolation centres, arguing that is likely to make the institutions unsafe for learners.
Though not a topic for debate here, it is a valid concern all the same. We have argued before that the quarantine is being mishandled.
On several occasions, those in quarantine have complained bitterly over mistreatment but the authorities seem not to care.
Little has been done to improve conditions at the centres. The government should deal comprehensively with all the questions raised over quarantine conditions as a matter of urgency.
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