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REVEALED: Demoted KEMRI scientist misled Health CS Kagwe with inaccurate Covid-19 data

A scientist in charge of the coronavirus tests at the Kenya Medical Research Institute has been demoted due to “constantly misleading and delaying” coronavirus reports, Kenyan report can now reveal.

Dr Joel Lutomiah who is the Centre for Virus Research Director was designated by the KEMRI Director-General Prof Yeri Kombe to chair the corporation’s Rapid Response team which was in charge of the laboratories.

It later emerged that KEMRI’s reports on COVID-19 test results given to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe were deliberately delayed and on further probing were found to contain major flaws and inaccuracies.

The Ministry of Health was solely reliant on KEMRI in producing CS Kagwe’s daily public briefings but on Friday last week did so from JKI Airport in the company of Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.

Kenyan Report learnt that some of the reports handed to Kagwe that morning were “inaccurate” and likely to cause the government embarrassment of release to the public.

The development came as reports from Saiya suggest that more than two dozen 14 contacts of the late covid patient James Oyugi Onyango {who was buried at night} had been released from quarantine after multiple test results showed they had tested negative. This has led to speculation that Mr Onyango who was declared positive of the virus by KEMRI may have been negative. There is now likelihood of his body being exhumed for postmortem procedures.

In yet another case, the driver accused of using an empty casket to ferry relatives to Homa Bay while positive for coronavirus would later on test negative. His family later proved the “empty casket” was indeed to be used to bury their kin who was in Homabay.

The tests results from these two cases that attracted the public interest were conducted at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratories in Kisumu which confirmed that both cases were positive for COVID-19.

According to insider sources at KEMRI, a researcher who spoke on anonymity revealed to us that there was also a major problem kept secret at KEMRI involving the first covid-19 patient in Kenya. It is remembered how the case of Brenda and Brian elicited a heated debate over the duo’s conflicting coronavirus reports. It is turning out that Brenda may have not tested positive after all.

Among other issues, Dr Lutomiah was also accused of cooking figures in Mombasa and repeatedly delaying the release of Covid-19 laboratory results contrary to agreed timelines.

To avoid similar occurrences, the Health CS Mutahi Kagwe recommended to the KEMRI Director General Prof Yeri to remove Dr Lutomiah from Covid leadership position as the Health CS has no direct control over employees at KEMRI which is an independent state parastatal.

A ministry official disclosed that the disappointed CS Kagwe claimed he could not allow the ministry of health to take the blame of “negligence, inefficiency and incompetence of other government officials.

Its due to occurrences that KEMRI Director General Prof Yeri served Dr Lutomiah with a disciplinary letter relieving him of the said duties for failing to competently honor sensitize matters of national interest. He will however remain at the institution as a research scientist.

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    Written by Kate Baraza

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