The World Health Organization (WHO) has said Kenya is among countries to be provided with reagent kits so as to ensure rapid detection of the deadly coronavirus.
The news came as health officials confirmed that three people were quarantined after showing symptoms consistent with the infection.
A Chinese national and a Ugandan man who arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) were isolated at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi.
Officials offered scant details about the patients, though they confirmed that the Ugandan, who was in transit, arrived at 5.30am.
The third patient, a 22-year-old woman from Likoni sub-county, arrived in Kenya from China on January 30.
The student from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou was admitted to Coast General Hospital in Mombasa.
“She is currently isolated in a private room at Rahimtullah ward. Her blood samples have been sent to Nairobi for analysis. She started feeling unwell while in China, complaining of chest pain and difficulty in breathing,” said Dr Khadija Shikely, Mombasa County’s Health Chief Officer.
The Ministry of Health on Sunday said preliminary results on the three were negative for the virus but maintained samples would be sent to South Africa for further tests.
Last week, Kenya sent samples to South Africa to find if a student who had travelled from Wuhan, China, to Nairobi had the virus.
The ministry reported on Friday that the unnamed male student, who was isolated at the KNH, were negative.
“Since this is a new virus, there are currently only two referral laboratories in the African region. However, reagent kits are being shipped to more than 20 other countries in the region, so diagnostic capacity is expected to increase over the coming days,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa.
Although there continues to be no reported cases of coronavirus in the African region, the WHO noted that there are many links between China and the African continent.
For this reason, it said, all countries should be prepared to contain the virus in active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management, contact tracing and prevention of the spread and to share full data with WHO.
Kenya has so far been identified as among the 13 top priority countries that have direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
The others are Algeria, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The WHO said these countries would be its first areas of focus at this time and that active screening at airports had been established in most of them.
Last week, the WHO determined that the outbreak, which has left 305 dead and 14,300 infected so far, constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
All but one of the deaths have been in mainland China.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
In China, almost 60 million people remain in effective lockdown as the country battles to contain the virus amid reports its health system is on its knees, running out of beds and supplies.
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