200 DIRECTED TO SELF-QUARANTINE

Corona+ priest spreads panic in Kisumu, elsewhere

He was among eight new people who tested positive for Covid-1

In Summary

•The priest arrived in Kenya from Rome on March 12, refused to self-quarantine despite government and church directive. He could have contacted hundreds of people.

•Spent several hours at Kisumu Hotel, on his way to the funeral of a nun's mother.

 

Kisumu Hotel where the Catholic priest spent time on Saturday March 21, 2020 before heading to Nairobi.
Image: DANIEL OGENDO

Many people in Kisumu are in a panic after a Catholic priest who tested positive for Covid-19 spent several hours at a Kisumu hotel.  And attended a funeral.

In fact, many people in Kenya are anxious about possible contact with Fr Richard Oduor who tested positive for Covid-19. He was among eight arrivals who tested positive, Heath Cs Mutahi Kagwe said on Sunday.

Two hundred people have been advised to self-quarantine themselves. 

 

Four staff of Kisumu Hotel have been put under mandatory self-quarantine after being in close contact with Fr. Oduor. Others are worried and may have to do so.

Oduor travelled from Rome -- the outbreak in Italy is the worst at this time -- before entering Kenya on March 12 through JKIA two weeks ago.

He did not self-quarantine, as required of all incoming visitors.

The Star has established that he interacted with hundreds of people, including children before he tested positive for the virus on Sunday.

His temperatures at JKIA were within normal range but he was still required to self-quarantine for 14 days, or check into a government isolation facility.

He spent the night in the Parish House of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Utawala and the next day took a bus to Siaya and visited his parents in Nyasanda area of Ugunja.

Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga said the priest attended a relative's funeral in Ambira area and even served the Holy Communion in a church. 

County commissioner Michael Tialal said the priest also visited a priest friend in Sega.

"There are rumours the priest might have visited Rarieda at Lwak Mission before proceeding to Nairobi, but that has not been ascertained," Tialal said.

Health officers have been sent to all those areas where it's believed that the priest visited," he said.

Yesterday, fathers Bosco Kamau and Anthony-Mario Egbunonu from the  Utawala Parish said they pleaded with Father Oduor to self-quarantine upcountry but he refused.

"We allowed him back on condition he would self-quarantine for 14 days. On his arrival on Monday, March 16, we immediately took him to a room at the back of the parish compound, formerly a store, and isolated him there. We never allowed him to say any mass in the Holy Family parish or the Outstation of St Patrick's a Mavoko," the parish said in a statement..

"On Saturday, March 21, after fever and vomiting, Fr Richard was taken to Mbagathi Hospital where yesterday we were informed that he tested positive for Covid-19," the statement said.

Father Oduor has taken responsibility for his actions and is informing the authorities of all the people he met, the parish said.

Commissioner Tialal said health officers are following his movements, advising about 200 people who interacted with the priest to quarantine themselves.

Fr Oduor visited the hotel after he attended a funeral in Ugunja, Siaya county, on Saturday, March 2. The staff, two men and two women, who were in contact with Oduor have been directed by the hotel to self-quarantine. 

The priest arrived at the hotel at 3 pm left past 4 pm. He was with the sister (nun)  whose mother he had gone to bury, and four other people. 

A hotel staff member, who sought anonymity, said Oduor and our others requested to be served a local concoction, 'dawa', as he said he had a sore throat.

“We have been given letters to stay at home and self-quarantine. As we speak I am in self-quarantine,” one of the staff said. It applies to other staff who were on duty when the priest visited.

The deceased was the mother of one of the staff at the hotel. More than 10 staff members attended the funeral.

“We went for the burial on March 14. The priest is a close family member of the bereaved,” the staff member added.

Father Oduor, the staff added, also visited Lwak. There is fear that more than people could have interacted with him.

A hotel staff member said they expected a team from Kemri to test them.

Hotel manager Merryl Ogondah declined to comment. She instead referred the Star to Maseno University vice chancellor Julius Nyabundi. The institution owns the hotel.

Hotel public relations officials said they were investigating.

Kisumu county commissioner Susan Waweru said the government is tracking all persons connected to the priest.

Nyanza regional police commander Vincent Makhoha said officers have been sent to the hotel.

“The management was yet to confirm. We want to confirm the number who indeed likely contacted the priest," he said.

Governor Anyang' Nyong’o and county commissioner Waweru warned residents they risk arrest and prosecution if they fail to adhere to orders to prevent the spread of the virus.

Two foreigners have been arrested for lack of valid travel documents and failure to go for mandatory self-quarantine.

We can’t afford to lose even a single life. Every citizen must take serious all the requirements,” Waweru said.

Among the safety measures is to decongest the Kisumu Bus Park and relocate it.

Governor Rasanga asked all those who were in contact with the priest to present themselves to health facilities.

He said they have enough isolation rooms in the county referral hospital and Bondo hospital.

(Edited by V. Graham)