There was panic at the King Fahad Hospital in Lamu town on Saturday following the arrival of a patient suspected to be suffering from Coronavirus.
Patients and medics at the hospital scampered out of the facility immediately it was established the incoming patient possibly had the dreaded COVID-19.
The patient, an Italian male, aged 74 years had been quarantined at the Siha Medical Hospital in Mpeketoni since March 19.
He presented himself to the hospital on March 19 with flu-like symptoms that included a high fever, cough and breathing difficulties.
The Italian, who is married to a Kenyan woman and owns a permanent residence in the town, is also said to have had a recent history of travel between March 3 and 4 this year.
He is said to have flown into the country from Rome, Italy to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia via Ethiopian Airlines.
He later connected a flight from Ethiopia to Nairobi before flying to Mombasa and Malindi by a local chartered airline. He is said to have later travelled to Mpeketoni by road.
The victim was ferried from the Mpeketoni facility to the Coronavirus isolation centre at the King Fahad Hospital in Lamu Island by county health officials but wasn’t admitted as angry members of the public who had gotten wind of his coming blocked his admission at the hospital.
Efforts by health officials and security guards to coerce the crowd into allowing the patient to be admitted for treatment at the hospital fell on deaf ears as the crowd grew violent and threatened dire consequences if the patient was admitted.
They demanded to know why the patient couldn’t be treated at the Siha Hospital in Mpeketoni, where he had been earlier quarantined.
They also accused the county government of carelessly handling the case considering it’s the first in Lamu County.
“Why would they travel all the way from the Mpeketoni with a patient they suspect could be having Coronavirus?” asked Ahmed Binga.
Was it impossible for them to treat him where he had been quarantined and how sure are they that the move hasn’t brought that virus in Lamu town? – Binga further asked as tension ran high.
After several fruitless attempts, the patient was ferried back to Mpeketoni.
Unconfirmed reports indicate the man has been quarantined at his home in the town.
Tens of people were also seen trooping to the hospital shortly after the incident to withdraw their patients who had been admitted there earlier for fear that they could have been exposed to the virus.
Patients who had been admitted at the various wards had equally scampered out of the wards, some with drips still connected to their veins.
It took hours for nurses at the hospital to convince them that all was well.
The incident has however been criticized by a cross-section of locals and leaders who feel there is too much stigma being attached to patients suspected to have coronavirus.
Lamu politician Francis Mugo condemned the incident terming it as unwarranted and an overreaction.
“Nobody wants to be infected with this virus but when you deny someone medical care, that surpasses the very purpose why we are fighting this disease in the first place. It’s very selfish to do that. Everybody wants to live as we are all humans. Let’s stop acting special. How would you feel if you or a family member received the same treatment tomorrow?” asked Mugo.
In reaction, Lamu County CEC for Health Anne Gathoni refused to disclose the patient’s location only saying that he was well taken care of.
“Remember, this still remains a suspected case of Coronavirus until the results are out. The patient is in isolation but he’s doing alright,” she said.