Guests under mandatory quarantine at PrideInn Azure Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, have protested the government’s move to extend their isolation period.
Acting Director-General for Health Patrick Amoth on Saturday directed that persons in quarantine centres where positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed be held for 14 more days awaiting repeat tests.
In a memo addressed to heads of directorates and all quarantine site in-charges, Dr Amoth said the extension is meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as individuals in some isolation centres had “not maintained optimal social distance, prescribed hygiene measures and have instead had close contacts and interactions”.
PrideInn isolation centre is said to have registered two cases of COVID-19.
In a letter addressed to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the guests at the hotel, however, differed with Dr Amoth on flouting government guidelines further calling for their release.
Decrying ill-treatment at the isolation facility and ballooning bills as a result of the extension, the guests urged Kagwe to intervene and save them from their misery with a promise that they will self-isolate.
With the hotel charging Ksh9000 per night translating to Ksh126,000 for 14 days per person, they expressed their fears that they might not afford the accommodation following the extension.
“As is procedural, we were all tested for COVID-19 and later informed that 2 people had tested positive and had been removed from the hotel and taken into isolation, to enable them receive treatment. We continued observing quarantine rules even though the rest of us were negative, ” the letter reads.
“What report does the MOH Directorate has about Pride Inn Azure residents that has warranted this blanket condemnation, yet we did abide by every rule? There is even a nurse stationed at the hotel, who takes our temperatures daily. To be fair to us, we would like to be told what we did wrong.”
According to the guests, the government officials at the facility have subjected them to inhumane treatment. Citing a lack of special care for some members who need medical support, the team noted that many had suffered mental distress with some having panic attacks.
The children, the guest said, are exposed to danger as they share rooms with adults.
Apparently some rooms lack windows and the guests are asked to do their own laundry, clean their rooms without cleaning products and disinfectants.
“Sir, enforcement of quarantine needs to be managed carefully and with sobriety. Hotels, like prisons, are potential spaces for disease to thrive. We tested negative but continue to be in close proximity with hotel staff who move in and out of the hotel premises as they return to their homes and come back to work, daily. Since COVID-19 is now within communities in Kenya, we are at an even bigger risk of getting infected by the hotel workers, should any of them be asymptomatic (God forbid), ” the letter adds.
“Sir, we are not party to the cases you cited in your press briefing. We, therefore, PLEAD with you to INTERVENE in our case, and authorize our release after our 14-days quarantine are over. Some of us are due to check out of the hotel on Monday the 6th of April.”
Lack of communication, they said, had largely affected their stay at the Hotel.
“From the time we arrived at JKIA to date, we cannot get answers to simple questions. We are treated and handled like prisoners, although even prisoners have rights. The uncertainty and lack of communication about decisions that impact us is of great concern to us. As patriotic and law-abiding people, we are doing our best to cooperate and follow guidelines, but we now feel as if some decisions are being made in the interest of external parties. We plead with you not to give room to people who may be trying to give your office a bad name, by taking advantage of this situation to benefit from it, ” they said.
“We have some students amongst us, who were schooling abroad and returned home to avoid getting caught up in the imminent border closures at the time. They are struggling to keep up with their course work, given the conflicting time zones and the fact that some of them continue attending online classes. They are awake as late as 3am EAT, studying. Asa parent with school-going children, have mercy on them. The quarantine has served its purpose, free us to go home. These measures were not meant to be a punishment for those returning home – they were meant to establish our COVID-19 status, which it has done.
“With the utmost regard to your office, Sir, and that of the COVID-19 Taskforce, we ask for your indulgence and intervention in our situation. Please allow us to go home to self-isolate and be one of your biggest ambassadors in this war against coronavirus.”