Tanzania, Somalia borders shut and curfew extended

Truck drivers wait to be tested for coronavirus at Namanga border between Kenya and Tanzania, yesterday. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday moved to control the spillover of Covid-19 cases from neighbouring Somalia and Tanzania by shutting down Kenya’s borders with the two countries.

He also extended the dawn-to -usk curfew for a further 21 days to June 6, 2020 in a bid to flatten the curve. The cessation of movement in and out of Mandera, Nairobi Metropolitan area, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa Counties was also extended for the same period.

In an address to the nation from State House Nairobi, the President also announced that 49 more people had tested positive for Covid-19 raising the number of infections countrywide to 830. Five more persons have also died raising the number of deaths to 50.

To stem the tide further, the President banned movement of persons, or passenger ferrying vehicles in and out of Kenya from the two countries with exception of cargo ferrying trucks.

Weak link?

To seal loopholes of potential infections, Kenyatta said truck drivers must be tested and issued with a Covid-19 free certificate before they gain entry into Kenya.

“If we had not taken these steps, there will be many thousands of infections and indeed many more fatalities. It is however clear that we are still yet to deliver a fatal blow to this enemy,” he said.

The decision to ban movement at the porous borders, was informed by a surge of Covid-19 cases from the two countries.

Of the 166 cases reported in the country this week, 43 of them are imported from Tanzania and Somalia.

The cases are spread across five counties adjacent to the borders with Wajir leading with 14, 16 in Namanga, 10 in Isebania, two in Lungalunga and one in Loitoktok.

The Head of State said a total of 78 truck drivers of foreign nationality were denied entry into Kenya during the same period after testing positive.

“If we had not done that, the imported cases will today have accounted for more than 50 per cent of this week’s infections,” President Uhuru sought to justify the directive.

The President is keen to ensure the gains made in the fight against the disease are not lost with so far 301 persons who tested positive having recovered.

With the Covid-19 fatigue and desperation having set in, many Kenyans were hoping the President would announce re-opening of the economy after the 51 days of curfew and partial lockdown, but the President had more grim news for the anxious nation.

“This enemy will lay waste our families, children, neighbours and friends. It will find the weakest link and use them to carry this disease to our most vulnerable,” Kenyatta warned.

Sensing the nationwide fatigue and despair, the President said he is equally anxious and wishes activities like church and business will resume soon, but it is too early to drop the ball.

In a bid to strike the right balance between opening an already limping economy and flattening the curve, the President tasked the National Emergency Response Committee Committee to evaluate the options.

“Countries like Singapore, Germany and Ghana had initially done well in combating the disease but when they eased their restrictions too early, they suffered spikes in new rates of infections,” Kenyatta warned.