Mombasa county government has been forced to halt the mass testing drive in old town following hostility from area residents.
The County Chief Health Officer, Aisha Abubakar said the exercise was halted after days of standoff with area residents apparently angered by Governor Hassan Joho’s recent remarks that they would be forced to undergo the testing.
Aisha says for the past three days the exercise was done in the old town, only 197 people presented themselves for testing out of a targeted 28,000 population.
Angry residents have been barricading roads making it difficult for medical personnel and ambulances to access the area.
“We decided not to risk the lives of health workers at Old town because the residents had turned hostile. We are instead doing a sensitization exercise to educate them on the need for mass testing’ said Aisha.
Old Town which is a tourist attraction by Tuesday had 39 positive cases of Covid-19 making it the highest in Mombasa County which has a total of 170 infections.
Mbarak Said, a shopkeeper in the area says until the government gives assurance on the sanity of the exercise, they will continue to resist the mass testing drive citing the stigma associated with the contagious disease.
Another resident Said Mzee, a retired soldier however says, they are not opposed to the process but their fears are the stigma that comes with the viral disease.
The defiant residents have continued to rebuke governor Joho for threatening to impose a mandatory testing due to their reluctance to undergo tests.
Swaleh Farah, also a resident at old town, called on the governor to stop issuing threats and insults to the weary residents and allow the people to do it willingly.
The residents want the governor to apologize for his recent sentiments.
“Let us be allowed to do it willingly. It is a matter of health and everyone is entitled to privacy’ said Farah.
The governor on Monday accompanied by Mvita MP, Abdulswamad Nassir and Likoni MP, Mishi Mboko shifted the mass testing exercise in Likoni and received an overwhelming response.
While he commended the Likoni residents for turning out in large numbers Joho expressed his disappointment by the defiance of old town residents.
He warned that his administration will not tolerate the antics of old town residents who wants to jeopardize the mass testing exercise which has been taken to their doorsteps.
He said mass testing was crucial in the fight against the global pandemic and urged residents in the coastal city to embrace the exercise.
The governor assured that those whose tests will turn positive will be taken into quarantine centres and their bills paid for by the county government.
The Mombasa County Commissioner (CC), Gilbert Kitiyo condemned attempts to disrupt the mass testing exercise saying the move risks slowing down efforts to curtail covid-19 in the region.
“Those attempting to scuttle the health officials from carrying out mass testing, will face the full force of the law, we will not allow few individuals to disrupt the exercise” he said.
Kitiyo said residents’ concerns about the poor state of the quarantine facilities would be looked into and services enhanced.
By Mohamed Hassan