CORONAVIRUS

EXPLAINER: What self-quarantine means

Those in isolation should be monitored to check on their progress or otherwise.

In Summary

• In China, a network of volunteer groups facilitates self-quarantine.

• Self-quarantine is not a new terminology to the medics but appears new to Kenyans.

Medical officers carry a box at Jinyintan Hospital, where patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
PREPAREDNESS: Medical officers carry a box at Jinyintan Hospital, where patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
Image: REUTERS

Self-quarantine is not a new terminology to medics but appears new to many Kenyans.

The term is now famous across the country (or is it infamous), but what does it mean?

Self-quarantine simply refers to staying at home or in a room through isolation from other people for a given period.

During that duration, the person is monitored to see if he or she is responding positively.

On Wednesday, following the arrival of 239 passengers from China, the Ministry of Health issued guidelines to Kenyans that would keep them safe from the coronavirus outbreak. Onboard were 13 Kenyans and 198 Chinese, while the rest were in transit.

The ministry said the Chinese passengers would quarantine themselves for 14 days. "All 239 passengers were screened onboard, cleared and advised to self-quarantine for the next 14 days," it said in a statement.

Health CAS Rashid Aman, who issued the press statement, urged Kenyans to remain vigilant as the risk is still high. He said all the passengers were given instructions to avoid mingling with other people, including their families.

The remark sparked a public uproar, but the CAS defended it, saying the measures taken by the government were in accordance with WHO recommendations.

While self-quarantine has been a success in China, the same cannot be expected to happen in Kenya. In China, there is a network of dozens of WeChat groups run by volunteers to facilitate self-quarantine. During the 14-day period, the groups drop items, including food, for use by those in isolation.

The groups also ensure people with suspected cases are picked by a running car from the airport and straight away ferried to their homes or rooms.

The situation is, however, different in Kenya and paints a grim picture of what could happen should a case be reported in the country. For instance, no one can account for the 239 passengers who arrived in the country and no one is aware of their whereabouts. Worse still, the government did not issue the method it would use to check if they comply with the guidelines.

The government also failed to inform Kenyans how it will trace the 239 people to check if they are clean or if they have developed signs and symptoms of the coronavirus.

 This gives credence to questions raised by Kenyans on whether the government is prepared to handle the virus that has so far claimed many lives across the world. Meanwhile, the government has sought to assure that it has prepared 11 beds to isolate people with suspected cases.