NAIROBI, Kenya

A top scientist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has been demoted for failing to provide COVID-19 sample results to the Health Ministry on time.

According to local media Sunday, Dr. Joel Lutomiah has been asked to resume his role as a research scientist at the institute’s Center for Virus Research, where he was serving as director. He also served as chairman of the KEMRI Rapid Response team.

Kenya’s Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe instructed KEMRI Director-General Yeri Kombe to remove Lutomiah from his position with immediate effect.

According to the Daily Nation newspaper, a letter to Lutomiah on the delayed submission of COVID-19 results said that “You, therefore, have failed in your duty to honor a matter that is of very serious national importance. I hereby relieve you of your duties as the Director, Centre for Virus with immediate effect.”

While announcing 12 more cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the national tally to 355, the Health Ministry defended Lutomiah’s dismissal, saying the move was due to how sensitive the matter is.

Ministry of Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman told a nationally televised media briefing that “whatever decisions that were made were in line with streamlining and improving the coordination of test results being received in good time.”

Doctor Lutomiah has over 40 years’ experience in entomology, parasitology, pandemic influenza and arbovirology.

Kenya has recorded 14 deaths and 106 recoveries so far from the coronavirus.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 185 countries and regions, with Europe and the US currently the worst-hit.

The pandemic has killed more than 206,000 people worldwide, with the number of cases totaling over 2.9 million and more than 864,000 recoveries, according to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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