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Mr President, lift the curfew and ramp up coronavirus vaccination

AKISA WANDERA
By Akisa Wandera | August 18th 2021

Akisa Wandera. [File, Standard]

Late 2019, when reports of the Covid-19 started emerging from China, many of us did not think much of it.

The coronavirus would later spread to other countries at the beginning of 2020, and we still imagined it was something that would go away after some time.

Fifteen months since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Kenya, the economic and social impact it has had on lives is unimaginable. It has caused disruptions in all sectors that will be felt for years to come.

Right from the beginning, the Kenyan government just like many others around the world, gave strict measures for the citizens in order to contain the virus.

Restrictions included dusk to dawn curfew, ban on public gatherings, restriction of movement and other public health protocols like wearing of masks and washing of hands.

The main aim of the restrictions has always been to contain the spread of Covid-19. Whenever there is a surge in infections, the curfew is extended by the government so the numbers can come down.

However, as time goes by, questions are being asked whether the dusk-to-dawn curfew is serving the intended purpose at a time Kenyans are struggling to earn a living.

Millions of livelihoods have been lost since last year as a result of Covid-19 and the restrictions. Lives have also been lost in the hands of the police as the curfew created a chance for the officers to be more brutal.

Currently, Kenyans are irked and extremely pained by the killings of Benson Njiru and brother Emmanuel Mutura. The two died in police custody after being arrested for flouting curfew rules. Their deaths are a representation of everything that is wrong with the very measures meant to protect them.

Benson Njiru and Emmanuel Mutura. [Courtesy]

A report by Human Rights Watch last year showed at least six people died in police violence during the first 10 days of the dusk-to-dawn curfew first imposed on March 27. Another report by the  Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) released in June 2020 also revealed that 15 people were killed as police enforced the curfew.

IPOA reported 31 incidents where the police used excessive force and 87 complaints lodged against police. Incidents like those at the Likoni ferry at the onset of the restrictions where police harassed commuters, lobbed teargas at them and beat them up is still fresh in the minds of many.

The president would later apologise for these actions but the heavy-handedness of the police continues. Time has come for us to have an important conversation about the management of this virus and how in many cases the process has led to killings by the police.

Kenyans are indeed justified to call for the reopening of the country and specifically lifting of the curfew as it is costing lives. Is it time to rethink our strategy in curbing the spread of the virus while still ensuring human rights are upheld? Is it possible to come up with new policies that do not involve pain and suffering for the citizens?

Ramping up vaccination will be the only way out. Vaccinating a significant number of the population will mean better immunity.

In New York, for instance, the last of the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted and pubs and restaurants were no longer expected to close at midnight. The curfew for indoor dining was also lifted. And all this was possible because of the steps taken to vaccinate as many people as possible.

While the challenges for the continent in accessing the vaccine are many, Kenya faces a delicate balancing act and critical leadership is needed at this point.

Mr President, it is time to go back to the drawing board. The public is scarred and will continue to be as long as things remain the same.

Lift the curfew and vaccinate the people. Save Kenyans from any more suffering and pain brought about by the burden of these restrictions.

Tweets

@RodgersKipembe: Time now to lift the '10-4' curfew. It's has been of NO essence, whatsoever

@ngaredancan: What's the essence of the night curfew? We know the super-spreaders. The economy is on its knees. Lift the curfew and allow people to work #EndCurfewNow

@amugira: Lift the dusk to dawn curfew NOW!!!

@SteveNyamwamu: Lift this curfew, End Police Brutality in Kenya, #JusticeForKianjokomaBrothers

@Fpsam3: It is only in Kenya where Covid-19 spreads at night. LIFT #Curfew

@mbau_francis: GoK Must now allow citizens to have freedom to run their businesses and lift the punitive and selective Curfew! #EndCurfewNow #EndPoliceBrutality

@maxwelVII: Right now in Kenya, your chances of survival are higher when you catch corona than encountering the police during these unreasonable curfew hours #EndCurfewNow

@Aadozo: Kenya's current curfew is on par with the worst decisions ever made by the government of Kenya. It's just pointless. #EndCurfewN

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