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Covid-19: Kenya vows to block medics from moving to US

The government has vowed not to allow any medical practitioners from Kenya to be recruited by the United States as countries intensify their efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic.

The response came a day after the US government, through the Department of State, Consular Affairs urged foreign medical professionals willing to work in America to seek visa appointments with their embassies.

“We encourage medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor programme (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment,” read a statement posted on the department’s website and social media pages.

It added: “For those foreign medical professionals already in the United States, J-1 Alien Physicians (medical residents) may consult with their programme sponsor, ECFMG, to extend their programmes in the United States. Generally, a J-1 program for a foreign medical resident can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years.”

Speaking during a press briefing on Friday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said Kenyan medics would only be allowed to go to the US through a government-to-government initiative and not through individual arrangements.

“We will not release any of our doctors and as a matter of fact, we have recalled those on leave to enhance our capacity. This is an international issue and no one is superior or inferior,” said Mr Kagwe.

The United States on Sunday surpassed 123,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, a significant jump in only a few days.

More than 2,200 people have so far died from the virus in the US, with the infection toll surpassing that of Italy and China, where the virus was first detected.

It also comes amid warnings from health officials that the pandemic will continue to accelerate in coming weeks.

More than 44,600 cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease have been confirmed in New York state, while California has recorded the second highest number of cases at 4,000 and Washington more than 3,200.