Kenya’s government is facing growing criticism over quarantine centres it set up to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with witnesses saying some are squalid and expose residents to the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Since mid-March, the government has enforced a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone who flies into the country,or has direct contact with someone infected and lives in an area where self-isolation is not allowed.
Those who can pay spend the quarantine in an upmarket hotel.
Others are placed in government-run facilities established in buildings such as schools or universities.
Demonstrations have broken out in some centres, break-outs have been reported, and the government faces two lawsuits over alleged mistreatment which it has yet to respond to.
Reuters interviewed 12 people who have spent time in quarantine in the government-run centres; meanwhile two said conditions were satisfactory.
The other 10, who asked not to be identified to avoid stigma, described filthy conditions with bedbugs, overflowing toilets and bad food.
Reuters sought comment from the facilities where these people were housed but telephone and text messages sent over several weeks received no responses.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Judy Sirima declined comment.
One woman told Reuters she was quarantined at Nairobi’s Kenya Medical Training Centre for two weeks and tested negative for the coronavirus.
Then others at the facility, where people were crowded together at mealtimes, tested positive, although she was kept another week, and then tested positive too.
“I got it from the quarantine; we were sharing washrooms; we were sharing everything,” she said.
However, Reuters could not verify where she contracted the virus.
A woman in quarantine at the Karen Cooperative Retreat and Conference Centre said she and others received no protective gear.
“We are not given masks; no gloves, no sanitiser,” she said.
However, neither facility responded to requests for comment.