Africa

Kenya hunts those filmed fleeing coronavirus quarantine centre

Someone in quarantine in Kenya holding up a "Please help us" sign - April 2020 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some in quarantine have been angered after several centres extended confinements beyond 14 days

Kenyans filmed escaping from a coronavirus quarantine centre will be hunted down and sent back there, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

"We know you and we will find you," he said, adding that the escapees were putting the lives of others at risk.

The warning came after a video clip went viral showing several people scaling a wall to flee a quarantine centre in the capital, Nairobi.

Those in forced quarantine have been complaining about poor conditions.

They say some centres are not much better than prisons, with poor hygiene and complaints that social distancing is impossible because of overcrowding.

Others are angered about having to pay for their confinement, which costs between 20 (£16) and $100 a night - depending on the centre.

Hostels at schools and universities as well as hotels have been used to hold those put into quarantine for an initial 14-day period - though this has been extended twice at some centres.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Quarantines have been extended at some centres after some people tested positive for Covid-19

More than 400 people are currently in quarantine. They include people who arrived in the East African country from areas affected by the virus before it closed its borders and those found to have been in contact with a coronavirus patient.

It is not clear how many individuals escaped from quarantine at the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) but some reports put the number at 50.

The breakout took place on Tuesday as a meal was being served. The centre's residents had a chance to escape when it started to rain and the guards took cover, Kenya's Citizen TV station reports.

The Daily Nation newspaper tweeted a video, showing some people jumping over a wall:

According to the paper, the KMTC centre has more than 200 people in quarantine - held as a consequence of contact tracing or after being arrested for flouting the curfew and social distancing rules.

The country has not gone into lockdown, but has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and a ban on travel to or from Nairobi and several other areas considered hotspots for transmission.

Ramadan plea

During a radio interview in Swahili on Wednesday morning, President Kenyatta urged Kenyans to take the restrictions seriously.

Kenya's Covid-19 restrictions:

  • Mandatory 14-day quarantine for those who may have had contact with a coronavirus patient
  • Night-time curfew between 19:00 and 05:00 local time
  • No travel to or from the capital Nairobi and parts of the city's neighbouring counties. Such measures also apply to some coastal counties
  • Schools, pubs, entertainment venues, churches and mosques shut
  • Everyone required to wear face masks in public and face arrest for not doing so
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCoronavirus: A father's fears in Kenya's crowded Kibera settlement

Read: Weddings, births and deaths in the age of Covid-19

"For the safety of your family, and your loved ones, do what is necessary to protect them. Stay away. Do not put people at risk because you do not think it is serious," he is quoted as saying.

He said that by the weekend, as many as 2,000 people a day would be tested for coronavirus, the Daily Nations reports.

The president also ruled out relaxing the curfew during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which begins at the end of the week and when there are usually gatherings after dusk to break fast.

"We told Christians during Easter that you cannot mark this day... We respect all religions but we have said that let us all celebrate and mark these religious days in our homes, on radio and on television," the Daily Nations quoted Mr Kenyatta as saying.

"I ask our Muslim brothers and sisters to mark the holy month of Ramadhan like they have not done before because these are extraordinary times."

Kenya has recorded 296 cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, including 14 deaths.

More on this story

Around the BBC