The government has open talks with health workers’ union to avert a looming strike in the wake of COVID 19 pandemic in the country.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Mercy Mwangangi said the ministry was meeting union officials to iron out their grievances with a view to dissuading the disgruntled health workers from going ahead with the Monday strike notice.
“Let me reiterate by saying health care workers are the heartbeat of this response and so we are in negotiations and discussions with them to evaluate their concerns and to be able to come to a middle ground where we can actually move forward”, she said.
The intervention comes after Health workers through their union threatened to down their tools next week unless the government fulfilled their demands for a better allowance package and protective measure when handling COVID 19 patients.
Dr. Mwangangi who was updating the country on the status of the pandemic noted that porosity of the borders posed the greatest challenge in the war on COVID 19 going by recent statistics of fresh infections in the country.
“The has become the latest high-risk area of the transmission of the COVID disease and that’s why we are working with member states of the East African Community to develop a sustainable mechanism of controlling cross border infections for the common good of the region” she said.
She said a team of health officials was assessing the situation to come up with recommendations and intervention measures after it emerged that long-distance truck drivers were turning out to be the weak link in the fight against the virus.
“Kenyans have been voicing their concerns regarding these emerging trends, at our borders and their porosity. I wish to inform you that, as members of the East African Community, we have been in constant discussion with our counterparts on how best this matter can be handled for the safety and well-being of our people”, she assured .
The CAS noted that the National Emergency Response Committee is monitoring the situation closely and would not hesitate to take any measures as the situation dictates.
Due to the nature of human interaction, it is not possible to keep the virus from crossing the borders and no country has been able to achieve this, Dr. Mwangangi said and thanked the surveillance teams and health care workers who have come forth to combat the virus within the communities as well as identifying the high-risk areas.
“I urge all Kenyans to remain calm and exercise patience as the Government addresses the ‘panya’ routes being used get into our country”, she said
The CAS also appealed to communities living within and around our border Counties, to actively exercise Nyumba Kumi community policing, be vigilant and report any suspicious individuals.
As pertains to COVID 19- Pandemic, the CAS said that out of the tested 1,486 samples in the last 24 hours, 21 people have tested positive bringing the total number in the country to 758.
Out of the 21 cases that all Kenyans, Dr. Mwangangi said the youngest is 7 years old and the oldest is 79 years , 14 are male and 7 are female. Four of this number are truck drivers who were tested at the Namanga border.
Out of the same samples, the CAS added that 8 individuals who are truck drivers from Tanzania also tested positive and were referred back to Tanzania. Seven were at the Namanga Border and one at the Isebania Border.
“The 21 Kenyan cases are distributed as follows, 12 cases are from Mombasa, 4 from Kajiado, 4 from Nairobi and 1 from Uasin Gishu”, she said
The distribution of the positive cases are in Mombasa, there are 5 cases from Likoni, 4 cases from Mvita, 2 cases from Jomvu and 1 case from Nyali.
In Kajiado, 3are from Namanga Border Point, and 1 from Loitoktok while in Nairobi 4 cases are distributed between Eastleigh which has 2, and Kibra also 2. Uasin Gishu’s 1 case is from Turbo.
Today, the government has also discharged 3 people from the hospital bringing a total of 284 recoveries from COVID -19. Two patients, both from Nairobi County have also lost their lives bringing the total number of those who have succumbed to the disease to 42.
The government has so far tested 36,918 samples in the country.
Health Ag. Director General Dr. Patrick Amoth said that the COVID 19 virus is likely to be endemic going forward and therefore the country will have to adapt our lives with the virus into consideration by continuing with simple measures that have been put in place.
On the issue of lifting of restrictions that are in place, the DG said this will have to be gradual, based on science and information received from colleagues who have been doing modeling.
“ We want to avert the upsurge of this disease, and to do that we will have to be able to study and make proper decisions moving forward”, he said
On the issue of health care workers strike, Dr. Amoth said that as a ministry they are working on a comprehensive package for health caregivers without discriminating any cadre and that they will continue to dialogue with the union to reach an amicable solution.
He emphasized that the quarantine facilities in government continue to be free and being implemented to the letter saying anyone being levied any fee from such institutions can be able to report and the ministry can take action.
During the press Briefing, World Vision donated 11,416 PPEs worth over Ksh 50 million to the COVID emergency response committee. The kits comprise surgical masks, shoe covers, scrub bottoms, aprons and coveralls.
By Wangari Ndirangu