The French Embassy in Kenya is reported to have evacuated nine of its nationals who tested positive for Covid-19 in Nairobi, a move that has sparked dispute between the embassy and Kenyan government.
The evacuation started weeks ago with a 56-year-old man who was flown out of the country on March 9 after being diagnosed with Covid-19 in Kwale. According to media reports, the man had been hospitalised at the Aga Khan Hospital for specialised care.
The recent evacuation of the nine nationals through a KLM flight has put the embassy at loggerheads with the Ministry of Health, as officials feel that the French government is frustrating lockdown orders.
The sick nationals had either arrived in Kenya recently or been in contact with infected people, reports indicate.
As if that is not enough, it is reported that two French nationals tested positive for Covid-19 in a private facility but could not be added to the official tally, since the French embassy refused to have the tests redone in a government facility, which is the procedure to have cases confirmed.
The nationals are said to have fled and taken refuge at the French Chancery, making it impossible to take samples.
The French embassy and nationals in the country are said to be disregarding Ministry of Health guidelines, putting themselves and those around them at the risk of infection.
“The director-general has been in talks with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an effort to find a solution to this because it is a delicate balancing act for Kenya as it tries to abide by international regulations while containing this virus,” said a source from the Ministry of Health as quoted by a local daily.
However, the French Embassy refuted the claims that it was not abiding by local health guidelines, but refused to discuss allegations of shielding nationals when contacted by the paper.
The Embassy of France respects Kenyan directives regarding coronavirus and has no comment about these allegations,” a spokesperson told the Nation on Saturday.
Under the Vienna Convention of 1961, the embassy is beyond the Jurisdiction of the Health ministry and Kenyan officials can only enter on the express permission of the ambassador.
The government also cannot search the cars or offices of the embassy unless with express permission from the government, making it difficult to pin down foreigners flouting health guidelines.