Africa & Kenya Coronavirus Q&A

Article by Catrina Stewart
Posted: March 13, 2020  

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus (or Covid-19)?

Kenya now has several confirmed cases of Covid-19, after its first case was confirmed on March 13. The World Health Organisation recommends that you stay at home if you feel unwell, and do not go out until you recover. If your symptoms develop into a cough, fever and difficulty breathing, call Kenya’s toll-free helpline at 0800 721 316 or 0732 35 35 35.

A very few private clinics are starting to take blood to test for the virus (such as Lancet labs, which offers drive-through screening, and Aga Khan), but those who don’t will call the above number, and responsibility will pass to the Ministry of Health to screen you. If the results are positive, you will be put into isolation, and your close contacts quarantined, according to the Health Ministry. Alternatively, health officials are advising those who suspect they have the disease to go directly to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) for screening. The private Aga Khan University Hospital has said that it also has the capacity to both test and admit patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus. Its hotline is 0709 931 700.

The government has created isolation units at Kenyatta and Mbagathi hospitals.

Other resources include:

Kenya Ministry of Health: Twitter: @MOH_Kenya,  Facebook: MinstryofHealthKE, website:

Ministry of Health Helplines: 0800 721 316 or 0732 35 35 35 or 0729 471 414.

AAR: 0709 701 000

Aga Khan University Hospital hotline – 0709 931 700

MP Shah Hospital hotline: 0722 204 427 / 0733 606 113

Lancet Kenya – 0703 061 000

US Embassy in Kenya

If you are a foreign national, consider registering with your national embassy or high commission in Nairobi – if you haven’t done so already – to receive regular updates about the security situation, flights and to access advice.

What plans have been prepared to prevent a major outbreak in Kenya?

Kenya has taken dramatic steps to halt the virus in its tracks. These include:

  • Nationwide curfew from Friday, March 27th, from 7pm to 5am
  • Suspension of all flights in and out of Kenya from midnight, March 25th
  • Closure of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, although restaurants are encouraged to provide delivery
  • Forcible quarantine for everyone arriving in Kenya from mid-March before the closure of its airspace. It also refused entry to non-residents or non-citizens prior to the closure
  • School closures from mid-March

Kenya has not yet gone as far as some Western countries, which are in complete lockdown, with residents still able to go to work if they wish, visit public parks, and socialise with friends. A lockdown might be on the cards, however, if the virus takes greater hold in Kenya.

Currently, Kenyan health officials are advising potentially infected people to go to clinics or KNH for testing, contrary to WHO advice which suggests those with flu-like symptoms should avoid clinics or hospitals for fear of infecting others.

It has opened a 120-bed public facility at Mbagathi hospital (affiliated with Kenyatta National Hospital) to treat those infected with the virus, and displaying serious illness. It also has a few beds at KNH. Private hospitals, such as Aga Khan and Nairobi Hospital, also have the capacity to isolate patients, and will likely be deployed if the number of serious cases rises rapidly.

How many cases are there in Africa?

South Africa and Egypt have been worst hit, but cases have been confirmed in several countries, including Ethiopia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, Cameroon, Togo and Nigeria.

Why are there so few cases in Africa?

The virus arrived late in Africa, but the number of cases is rapidly rising, although the figures are still nowhere near the number of cases in China, Europe and the U.S. Some believe that Africa has relatively few cases because of the hotter conditions here, but the truth is that nobody really knows yet for sure. The virus has only recently arrived in Africa, and it is still too early to predict how it will behave.

What is Covid-19?

It is a new virus caused by a member of the coronavirus family. The outbreak is believed to have originated at an animal market in China.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

Mild symptoms include tiredness, a dry cough and fever. In more serious cases, the infection can spread to the lungs and cause viral pneumonia. Most recover without need for specialist treatment. The elderly and those with underlying health conditions appear to be most at risk of developing complications that could lead to death.

How does Covid-19 spread?

The disease spreads from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth. These droplets land on surfaces or objects around the person, and it is caught when people touch these surfaces, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. It can also be caught by breathing in droplets from an infected person, who coughs or exhales droplets. For that reason, it is important to stay more than 1 metre away from a person who is sick.

How can I prevent infection?

Health officials recommend that people wash hands regularly, or use an antibacterial disinfectant on their hands, and clean work surfaces and door handles, and try to avoid touching their nose, mouth or eyes. There is little evidence that face masks prevent infection.

Is there a drug or medicine to cure Covid-19?

Not yet. There is no vaccine or specific anti-viral medicine to prevent or treat the disease, but people with serious illness should be hospitalised to receive supportive care. Possible vaccines and treatments are under investigation. Antibiotics are not effective because they only work on bacterial infections, not viral ones.


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