Kenya + 1 more

Kenya Seals Border Routes With Uganda to Contain Ebola

By Tervil Okoko

Kenyan police have sealed all illegal cross-border routes into Uganda, leaving only the main Busia and other major posts, as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the deadly Ebola disease.

More than 160 cases and some 60 deaths from the haemorrhagic fever have been reported in Uganda's northern Gulu province.

John Langat, the district commissioner of Kenya's Mt Elgon area, in which the routes fall, told PANA on telephone Thursday that his officers had been stationed along the four routes to prevent the entry of persons untested for the disease.

He said the police had initially been assisting medical personnel to screen people entering Kenya from Uganda through the routes.

Another route to the north, across the Lwakhaka river, has also been closed due to heavy rains, which have made the river impassable.

One of the entry conditions at the legal border posts is that travellers from Uganda fill out an Ebola form to declare their state of health.

The district public health officer, Paminas Kathinja, said visitors from Uganda have to report to the nearby Chekube government dispensary before being allowed entry to Kenya.

The precaution caused a row at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi Tuesday when the Ugandan squad for the on-going Castle Lager Cup soccer tournament was held for hours to fill out the health form before being let into the country, a condition the Ugandans vehemently protested.

Meanwhile, the Ebola screening along the border is said to be greatly affecting the social activities among the communities that bestride the frontier.

Worst hit is the pastoral Pokot community, which has had problems interacting with their kith and kin across the border.

Meantime, the area medical officer, James Motanya, Thursday urged the community not to worry unduly about the screening exercise or feel intimidated by it.

He advised that the exercise was in their interest to quarantine those suspected to have contracted the disease.

Escaping the raging drought that has hit Kenya, Pokot herdsmen crossed into Uganda early June in search of green pasture.

It is feared the herdsmen might carry the deadly virus on their way back to the country.

"The screening is intended to help identify those with the virus to curb its spread," Motanya told them.

In the past one week, there has been Ebola panic in certain parts of Kenya with several reported suspect cases.

For instance, claims that a female patient at the Naivasha district hospital, some 37-km away from Nairobi, had contracted the virus set medical authorities into action.

But a senior officer at the Rift Valley provincial general hospital in Nakuru dismissed the claim as false after visiting the patient Wednesday.

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