The Chinese government will evacuate 400 of its nationals from Kenya, with the first batch of 200 having left Tuesday at 11pm over fears of Covid-19.
The evacuees procured their tickets on Sunday night but because of the social-distancing rule, all could not fit in the China Southern Airlines plane.
“The remaining 200 will leave in the course of the week. We were expecting all of them to leave at once, but considering the social-distance rule and the new sitting arrangement, they could not leave at once,” said their lawyer Isaac Okinyo.
The final arrangements, he said, were made after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the lawyer the go-ahead to evacuate his clients.
Mr Okinyo told the Nation that the Chinese had earlier requested their embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to leave the country but they both declined.
This prompted him to move to the High Court, where he obtained an order directing the Kenyan government to allow them to leave on June 16, arguing that Kenya’s health system does not have the capacity to handle the pandemic.
Justice Weldon Korir issued the orders after the lawyer sought special permission to allow evacuation flights to take them home. The lawyer served the Foreign Affairs ministry with the order last week and he received a no-objection response on Saturday evening.
“We received a no objection response and all the arrangements were concluded on Sunday,” he said.
Earlier, after the Saturday Nation published a story titled “Chinese nationals flee the country over fear of Covid-19”, Xueqing Huang, chief of the information and public affairs section at the Embassy of China, wrote to Clifford Machoka, head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Nation Media Group, with claims that the article was not factual and that no flight would be leaving Nairobi to China on June 16.
“I wish to draw your attention to today’s Nation report (Saturday, June 14) which is basically misinformation. There is no flight from Nairobi to China next week, let alone any Chinese fleeing Nairobi led by Ambassador Wu Peng,” Mr Huang wrote.
He continues: “We hope your journalists or editors could do necessary check on the facts before they publish anything. They can reach out to the embassy to inquire about China facts.”
The Chinese are claiming that Kenya’s health system cannot handle huge infection numbers if the pandemic spreads rapidly. They argued that they have a better chance of treatment in China, as Kenya does not have enough health facilities and equipment to manage coronavirus patients.
“They have underlying conditions and others just don’t feel safe here. All the isolation centres are full, testing and contact tracing is a big deal to the Kenyan government,” Mr Okinyo said.
China was ground zero for the novel coronavirus after it alerted the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019 about several cases of unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people.
What started as an epidemic in China has now become a global pandemic, infecting more than seven million people and killing at least 432,000 people worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard, which collates information from national and international health authorities.
The virus has spread to about 200 countries, with the US, Brazil and Russia experiencing the most widespread outbreaks, followed by the UK, Spain and Italy. Kenya has confirmed 3,860 cases and 105 deaths as at Tuesday.