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Kenya blocks entry as virus cases mount in East Africa

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A laboratory specialist wearing protective gear walks toward the ward for quarantined people who had close contacts with the first Kenyan patient of the COVID-19 at the Infectious Disease Unit of Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 15, 2020, during the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. – Kenya announced on March 13, 2020, the first confirmed case of coronavirus in East Africa, as the region so far unscathed by the global pandemic scaled up emergency measures to contain its spread. A 27-year-old Kenyan woman tested positive for the virus on March 12 in Nairobi, a week after returning from the United States via London. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Kenya unveiled a series of strict measures to curb coronavirus on Sunday, blocking entry to the country to all except citizens and residents and shutting schools as the number of confirmed cases rose to three.

In an address to the nation, President Uhuru Kenyatta said two people who had come into contact with a 27-year-old Kenyan patient “have tested positive” and been moved into an isolation facility.

“The government is suspending travel for all persons coming into Kenya from any country with reported Coronavirus cases,” he said.

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“Only Kenyan citizens and foreigners with valid resident permits will be allowed to come into the country provided they proceed on self-quarantine or in a government quarantine facility.”

Kenyatta said this would come into effect in the next 48 hours and would remain in place for 14 days.

Every foreigner who has entered the country in the past 14 days has been ordered to self-quarantine.

In addition from Monday, all primary and secondary schools are to close, with boarding schools and universities to shut by the end of the week. All companies have been urged to allow employees to work from home.

“I want to assure you that my administration is at the forefront of managing this pandemic,” Kenyatta said.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said the two new patients had sat next to the first as she travelled back from the United States via London had tested positive. One is Kenyan and one holds dual Kenyan-British nationality.

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After being relatively spared from the global pandemic which has killed over 6,000 and infected over 159,000, Africa now has 25 countries reporting cases compared to nine a week ago.

Ethiopia, which like Kenya reported its first case on Friday, on Sunday said three contacts of its initial patient had tested positive.

“The three cases include two Japanese citizens aged 44 and 47 and other one is Ethiopian aged 42. All of them work in Addis Ababa and had close contact with the first confirmed case,” the health ministry said in a Facebook post.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation with more than 100 million people and a key hub into the continent, is one of few countries in the region to not implement measures such as blocking travellers to block the spread.

The island nation the Seychelles, which reported two cases on Saturday, has blocked cruise ships and travellers coming from South Korea, Iran, China and Italy.

Rwanda, which also confirmed its first case this weekend, has shut schools and churches for two weeks and banned concerts and large gatherings. Its national airline Rwandair has cancelled its flights to India, Israel and China.

Neighbouring Burundi has imposed mandatory quarantine for travellers, while Uganda has ordered that visitors from a number of affected countries self quarantine for 14 days, or consider simply not visiting at all.

South Sudan’s health ministry said meanwhile that it was “temporarily suspending direct flights between South Sudan and all affected countries”.

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