The government fired a warning shot to Kenyans yesterday by locking down Eastleigh in Nairobi and Old Town in Mombasa due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Yesterday, Eastleigh became the area with most infections in Kenya with 68 cases while Old Town had 57 cases. Kenya’s total tally went up by a new high of 47, bringing the total to 582.
Of the new cases announced yesterday, 32 are from Mombasa, 11 from Nairobi, two in Busia and one each in Kwale and Kiambu.
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Of Mombasa’s 32 cases, 18 are from Old Town while five of Nairobi’s 11, are from Eastleigh.
As a result, Eastleigh and Old Town have become the hotspots of the virus in Kenya.
Consequently, the government ordered cessation of movement into and out of these two areas for 15 days, effective 7pm last night.
According to an order signed by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, the whole of Eastleigh -- including Section 3 -- will be placed on lockdown.
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“Eastleigh is the area stretching from General Waruinge Road (Pumwani Maternity Roundabout) First, Second and Third avenues, and 17th, 18th and 19th streets,” he said.
Mombasa’s Old Town was described in the notice as the area covering Mji wa Kale location, Makadara sub-location and with Mlango wa Papa, Indian Ocean, Makadara and Digo roads as its boundaries.
Last month, the Eastleigh Business Community shut down all businesses in the area, and called for mass-testing of residents after a prominent Muslim cleric died of Covid-19 after interacting with many residents.
“This is necessary since coronavirus is real and most of the people in the malls are not following the regulations set up by the government,” said Eastleigh Business Community Secretary General Omar Hussein
An email, still from the business community, issued at that time predicted what has now befallen the area.
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“The highest numbers of positive cases are now concentrated in Eastleigh. I have been informed by Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe that the government had decided to take drastic measures to contain the spread in Eastleigh,” the email reads.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the lockdown of Old Town and Eastleigh was necessary considering the surge in numbers.
“During this period, all markets, restaurants and eateries will be closed within those two areas,” he said.
Kagwe said residents are allowed to go about their duties, but they will not leave the boundaries of those areas.
During this period, the government will ramp up mass-testing in the areas in a bid to capture more cases.
To this effect, Kagwe said the government will henceforth take over quarantine charges. This however does not apply to individuals who are flying home from India, China and United Kingdom who will be quarantined for 14 days at their own costs.
“Kenyans should therefore not be afraid to come out and be tested,” Kagwe said.
He warned people who will host their friends or folks from the two areas as a way of beating the system.
“Knowing how we are, it will not be surprising for someone to move out of Eastleigh, or even move houses.
“But it will be foolish of you to host someone whom you know comes from the said areas, and they have not been tested to determine they are negative,” Kagwe said.
The CS warned that the same fate -- a lockdown -- will befall other areas if they continue operating normally and therefore attracting infections.
He noted that while the government has insisted that people work from home, some Kenyans are back to their offices.
“If you do not want a lockdown, we just ask you to essentially work from home,” he said.
The CS, while issuing the update, noted that the number of recoveries is encouraging. They now stand at 190 after eight more patients tested negative.
But he expressed concern at the manner in which people are dying from the disease.
He said two people who succumbed to the disease yesterday were in their homes. The two, aged 62 and 78, died in Mombasa and brought the national tally of fatalities to 26.
“It means a lot of people can get infected that way,” he said.
Health Acting Director General Dr Patrick Amoth raised an alarm over the emerging trend in Mombasa where Covid-19 patients are reporting at the Accident and Emergency and dying in the process of being attended to.
“These are very critically ill people with symptoms and shedding very high level of Covid-19 virus and therefore making them extremely infectious especially to those who are taking care of them,” he warned.
Amoth said the African nature of consoling sick persons puts even more people at risk. The DG said it is wise to call 719 helpline in such a case and any other situation when one exhibits symptoms of Covid-19.
He however cautioned that due to the current flu season, it might be difficult to distinguish between Covid-19 and flu symptoms.
“We are in the flu season. As a country, we usually have two seasons of flu from March to May and July to September, so it may be difficult to distinguish ordinary flu from Covid-19 as they have similar symptoms,” Dr Amoth said.
At the moment, there are 222 patients in isolation facilities.
Of these, one is in ventilatory support at Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral Hospital while four others are in oxygen support in Mombasa.
The rest are stable and will be discharged as soon as they test negative.
The lockdown of Eastleigh will put in jeopardy hundreds of jobs and shut a crucial feeder industry for household and clothing items.
Eastleigh acts as the key supply route for retailers in other parts of the city and certain towns as well.
Stalls and shops in the area are popular for clothes, curtains, utensils as well as electronics due to fairer prices compared to other traders in the city.
For the densely populated area, the closure of businesses will also add to the disruption caused by the closure of mosques even as the Muslim faithful mark the holy month of Ramadhan.?
Eastleigh residents are mainly Muslims.