Nakuru County will no longer take samples from suspected Covid-19 patients to Nairobi following approval by the devolved unit’s administration to set up a modern laboratory.
The County Epidemiologist, Dr. Jacob Rotich said the new facility will be designed to bolster testing capacity and reduce tests turnaround time.
Speaking when he supervised testing of workers in the tourism and hospitality industry for Covid-19 at Kwa Gitau Centre in Menengai East Ward, within Rongai Sub-County, Dr. Rotich noted that the laboratory would comply with established WHO standards and enabling regulatory laws for the practice of medical lab personnel working in high containment environment.
The Epidemiologist said the county, with 11 Covid-19 cases, was currently focusing on commencing mass testing in efforts to prevent spread of the deadly virus. Mass testing for the virus, he said has been rolled out in all the eleven sub-counties.
Dr. Rotich stated that the county government has expanded the testing process from long distance drivers to include restaurants, entry points and communities as well as other high risk areas.
“Currently, it takes up to five days for results to be out. The upscaling of tests across the country is overwhelming the national testing labs.
“The laboratory will help reduce the time truck drivers wait to get results from our Covid-19 testing facility at Mai Mahiu Health Centre,” he affirmed.
The county has been sending medical samples of suspected Covid-19 cases to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratories in Nairobi for analysis.
The Epidemiologist said the number of those seeking to be tested for the disease had shot up after the devolved unit rolled out free Covid-19 test for workers in the tourism and hospitality industry.
The County is also actively involved in testing long distance truckers at major stopovers located in Salgaa, Gilgil, Mau Summit Total and Kikopey truck parking bays.
So far, 296 truck drivers have tested for Covid-19 at Mai Mahiu Health Centre.
Dr Rotich revealed that over 1,500 food handlers have been tested with one case turning positive for the virus.
He urged hotel owners to bring forth all their employees for testing as this was crucial in curbing the spread of the virus.
The County has also tested 224 health workers and least a further 2,500 passengers and motorists plying the Naivasha-Nakuru and Nakuru-Eldoret highway have also been screened for Covid-19.
Dr. Rotich called on County residents to embrace the mass testing which was the only way of identifying infected persons with a view of tracing contacts for containment and treatment.
He assured that the government shall meet the cost of treatment and quarantine for those affected and that people should not be afraid to come out for testing.
“I appeal to those turning up for the tests to give accurate contact information for easier tracking and follow-ups. In the event we cannot contact and treat those infected then the whole fight against spread of the virus will be in vain,” warned the epidemiologist.
A Manager at Taidy’s Suites, Ms Judy Njeri hailed the devolved government for rolling out free tests for workers in the tourism and hospitality industry as charging them for the exercise would have subjected them to further suffering having been out of employment for months.
“Being tested is good for us and our guests. Over 4,000 workers in Nakuru who rely on this sector for livelihoods have been out of employment since March. Getting tested is a clearance to getting our jobs back,” she noted.
Collins Sigei, a supervisor at Poleos Hotel at Salgaa said the move is the first in a series of steps in reviving the two industries that have been the source of revenue and employment lifeline in Nakuru.
He urged workers in the sectors to take advantage of the free testing, dispelling misinformation that the tests were painful.
By Anne Mwale/Jane Ndiritu