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Covid-19 preparedness: counties buy body bags, reserve land for graves

The national and some county governments have started preparing for the worst as coronavirus infections soar and with hundreds of victims dead.

The country has so far recorded 13,353 infections with the fatalities standing at 234. Several county governments have started preparing public graveyards in readiness for an anticipated increase in Covid-19 related deaths.

This comes as most critical care facilities run out of space, as patients now have to contend with home-based care, while others who are critically ill have been left to their own devices.

In Kisii, Siaya, and Kakamega, leaders have already identified large swathes of land to accommodate possible graves yards. In Nairobi, the national government is developing specifications for special body bags.

Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) chief executive Jonah Manjari said that the agency is waiting for approval from the Health ministry to buy the body bags. Projections by the National Steering Committee on Covid-19 show that as many as 30,000 Kenyans may die in the worst-case scenario, with Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe recently warning of a difficult period ahead.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman on Monday said infections are likely to peak late August or early September.


Covid-19 cases have shot up following the lifting of restrictions on movement in Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera.

The gravity of the pandemic has jolted counties in the wake of the spiralling infections, with attention shifting to the worst scenario in which many lives may be lost.

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya has sounded a warning about the challenge ahead for counties, expressing fears that the number of deaths may rise.

“With the opening of Nairobi and Mombasa, we expect increased infection from people travelling to the villages which may lead to deaths,” he stated. The Kakamega governor said his county had identified two parcels of land for mass graves.

In Kisii County, officials from the National Multi-Agency Covid-19 Command Centre visited last week to discuss with the county leadership about their preparedness to deal with fatalities. The team was informed that the county has set aside a 13-acre piece of land at Nyatieko in Kitutu Chache South to be used as a cemetery. In Siaya, health executive Dorothy Owino said the county had bought sufficient body bags. Lands executive Adrian Ouma said six acres of land has been set aside in Sega, four acres in Siaya town while Ugunja, Rarieda, Gem and Bondo sub-counties have one acre each.

The Laikipia County government has bought enough body bags to take care of a rise in deaths, Health executive Lenai Kamario told the Nation on Monday, adding that the burial grounds were adequate.


“All that has been catered for in the Laikipia Covid-19 Contingency Plan. There is no shortage of space. Body bags are also available,” Dr Lenai said.

The Nyeri County government is optimistic that there will be minimal fatalities, with Governor Mutahi Kahiga saying that there are no plans to buy land for mass graves.

“We choose to remain positive and optimistic that we will not have mass deaths,” he said. He added that the county had not bought any body bags yet.

The Mombasa County government said it has sufficient land for burial in the event that there is a spike in the number of Covid 19 deaths. Environment Chief Officer Ilhan Abbas said that they ready for any eventualities.

“We have areas that can accommodate a minimum of around 500 bodies within the CBD. We have ample space for the graves at Mbaraki and Manyimbo,” Ms Abbas said.

Kisumu County, which has recorded two Covid-19 deaths, is focusing on containing and managing coronavirus cases and up-scaling surveillance at the nine borders.

“We have not yet arrived at the point of preparing a designated mass graves. That we will have to be discussed at length with the multi-agency committee on the way forward,” the director communication at the governor’s office, Mr Aloice Ager, said.

By Nasibo Kabale, Wachira Mwangi, Shaban Makokha, Reginah Kinogu, Waweru Wairimu, Kabotia Murimi, Ruth Mbula, Benson Amadala, Elizabeth Ojina, Dickens Wasonga, and Ian Byron.