One on one with Kenya’s first ever COVID-19 patient Brenda Cherotich


One on one with Kenya's first ever COVID-19 patient Brenda Cherotich
Ivy Brenda Cherotich, a electrical engineer and Miss Tourism International Kenya 2021 was Kenya's patient zero. Photo: Brenda Ivy/Facebook

On April 1st, 2020 a face was put to what had been an invisible disease with Kenyans getting  introduced to the first COVID-19 patient. Her name was Brenda Cherotich.

Despite efforts by the Ministry of Health to allay fears on an unknown virus, more questions arose with Brenda’s unveiling. She’s mostly kept a low profile in the last year but agreed to speak to Citizen TV exclusively on her journey back to normalcy.

From obscurity to being thrust into the glare of camera lights, Brenda Ivy Cherotich and her friend Brian Ondiri became the poster children of Kenya’s COVID-19 pandemic.

The April 1st press conference drew heavy attention at a time the country was coming to terms with a global crisis.

An unassuming Brenda and Brian sharing their experiences with none other than President Uhuru Kenyatta himself.

“They took me seriously and they gave me a mask immediately they heard I had traveled abroad and had a cold,” Brenda remembers.

And with the headlines on April 2, came a barrage of attacks on social media.

Kenyans started poking holes in Brenda’s story from how many days she was in quarantine? Further more what was her relationship to Brian?

During that April 1st briefing with the President, Brian revealed he contracted the virus from Brenda.

Brenda told the media that she got to know about Brian when he was first brought into the isolation ward and realised it was someone she had seen get into her house.

She then told her friends to give all the information to the Ministry of Health officials if they came calling.

Nearly a year has passed since Brenda’s first press conference here at Afya House. After the lights dimmed and chatter about her ordeal died down, she quickly disappeared from the public eye, maintaining a low profile.

On January 17 this year Brenda represented Kenya at the 23rd Miss Tourism International contest.

It was the first time Brenda would divulge more details on her life beyond the patient zero label she bore for months.

“My name is Ivy Brenda Cherotich an electrical engineer from Kenya, and I’m 27 years old. I am Miss Tourism International Kenya 2021.” Brenda says.

Though she didn’t make it to the top 10 the 27-year-old talked about her childhood experiences in Kericho, as well as the culture during the pageant.

She hasn’t spoken to any press that is until now when she agreed to share her story one year after the pandemic hit.

Victoria: What was it like being the first publicly known COVID-19 patient in Kenya?

Brenda: I was scared and concerned and at the same time I was aware that people weren’t aware what was going on. Some people were very encouraging others were very discouraging sadly. But I get it because we didn’t know how long this disease would last. The burden I was carrying was I was concerned about my health and those around me.

Victoria: How did you deal with the online backlash?

Brenda: I understand the reactions and where it was coming from because fear what they don’t know. However, I really appreciate the support from family and even people who sent encouraging messages.

Victoria: How did you believe people who didn’t believe your story

Brenda: Sorry next question

Despite further prodding, Brenda even declined to respond to our questions about her relationship with Brian. Her reluctance to reveal specifics on career and future plans persisted though she did reveal…

Brenda: I’m doing much better. I’m moving one with my life. I’m doing great at life. I’m an ambitious woman and I’m focusing on my career right now.”

She’s learned to keep her cards close to her chest and just as quickly as she came into the limelight the ever-mysterious Brenda retreats to a life of obscurity one year on.

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Story By Victoria Rubadiri
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