Jail or quarantine?

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Imagine living in a lavish home with plenty of space and recreation activities. With the freedom to move about as often as you feel like. Now imagine all that being taken away instantly and being reduced to shared quarters, shared sanitary facilities with questionable hygiene standards, and limited food menu. These are the conditions in quarantine facilities in Kenya despite the crippling bills imposed on those in quarantine.

Kenyans have developed the fear of being sentenced to quarantine facilities. Those in forced quarantine have been constantly complaining about poor conditions. One Kenyan was interviewed and said, ”I fear forced quarantine as much as coronavirus.”. One woman told the BBC “The toilets are just messy, dirty… even the cleaners who clean the toilets once a day complain about how messy the toilets.”

Some have raised the issue of being kept in these facilities for no reason and left paying the bill. The cost of staying in a quarantine center is no less than Ksh.2000 per day. The cost of testing is also very high. Each test costs Ksh.10,000 and subsequent tests have to be taken to confirm negative test results. Most Kenyans are not able to singlehandedly foot this bill, this explains why some fled from those centres. “First on our inability to pay and secondly because it does not make any scientific sense for our continued stay at the centre,” Simon Mugambi, one of the would-be escapees, said.

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Kenyans attempt to leave a quarantine centre in Nairobi

Others spoke of their psychological and mental anguish after the government extended their stay beyond 14 days. In the words of another quarantine complainant: “It’s like you are condemned… it’s like you are at the mercy of the government.”

While in quarantine, there is widespread fear of the stigma they will receive once they leave these facilities, whether tested negative for the virus after making full recovery. Society is not very receptive to these people. A woman in Nakuru who engages in snail farming contracted Covid-19 from one of her international clients. On recovering, she was interviewed and claimed that her family had abandoned her during this period because of the myths surrounding this foreign disease.

These people have to be taken through counseling while in the quarantine centres to help them adjust to the conditions and prepare them for what awaits once they are freed from those centres. A Kenya Airways pilot offered pro bono counseling sessions for his crew in quarantine. “Quarantine is not a good place to be, so if you can avoid being there, just practise personal hygiene and social distancing to avoid all this trouble,” he said.

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