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No stopping China flights despite the coronavirus threat

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Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo on February 27, 2020. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

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Summary

  • The Cabinet is yet to make a decision on whether to bar flights from China even as other countries take the move to curb spread of the virus.
  • On Wednesday, Kenya allowed a China Southern Airlines plane carrying 239 passengers into the country.
  • The passengers were reportedly cleared of coronavirus (COVID-19) and directed to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Airlines from China will continue flying into Nairobi despite outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in the Asian nation, the Foreign Affairs ministry declared on Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Raychelle Omamo told the parliamentary committee on Defence and Foreign Relations that the Cabinet is yet to make a decision on whether to bar flights from China even as other countries take the move to curb spread of the virus.

On Wednesday, Kenya allowed a China Southern Airlines plane carrying 239 passengers into the country. The passengers were reportedly cleared of coronavirus (COVID-19) and directed to self-quarantine for two weeks.

The move has raised concerns on the country’s resolve to mitigate against spread of COVID-19 as other countries including Australia, Israel, Japan, Czech Republic and Afghanistan have all barred flights from China.

Kenya Airways last month suspended flights to and from Guangzhou following the outbreak but concerns linger as airlines from China continue to fly into the county.

COVID-19 started in the Hubei province of China last December and has so far killed over 2,592 in mainland-China and the number of infections has been rising to 77,150 cases this week.

Iran reported 19 deaths and 139 cases on Wednesday-the most outside mainland China.

“This matter will be considered in a comprehensive way by the interministerial committee and then we will make a pronouncement on the same,” Ms Omamo told the MPs.

She added that authorities were beefing up surveillance and tracking systems at all points of entry.

MPs hit out at the ministry, saying that outbreak of the virus in the country will cause untold damage with the State ruling out evacuation of 100 Kenyans currently trapped in Wuhan city-the epicentre of the infection.

“You allowed 239 Chinese from the hotspot and you are here telling us this … this matter will cause unprecedented disaster to this country,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech said.

The Chinese Embassy on Thursday said that one flight will be flying to Nairobi every week.