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We cannot afford to lose more lives to the pandemic

COMMENTARY
By Uhuru Kenyatta | March 27th 2021

Two weeks after my last address to the nation, I have been compelled by medical and empirical evidence to revise the measures we took to curb the spread of the virus in the country.

As at January, the number of Covid-19 confirmed cases was 4,380. This had shot to 15,916 cases by March 21. At the end of January, our Covid-19 positivity rate stood at 2.6 per cent. By Monday this week, the positivity rate had jumped to 19 per cent - and indications by our experts is that the positivity rate is now settling at 22 per cent.

What this means is that if you test 100 Kenyans for Covid today, 20 will be positive, compared to January this year when only two would have been positive. This tells us that our rate of infection has gone up 10 times between January and March. Indeed, it is a clear indication of a new trend: that now Kenya is squarely in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic.

In terms of geographical impact, Nairobi County accounts for close to 60 per cent of the recorded cases. Out of every 10 positive cases countrywide, six are from Nairobi. This unfortunate turn of events calls for urgent and drastic measures. What is even more worrying is the rising death rate from Covid. Between January and February, three people died every day from Covid. In March, the number has gone up to seven every day, the highest since this pandemic hit us.

Equally worrisome is how this Covid crisis has tested our health system. Over the last one month, we have experienced a steep and sustained rise in the number of admissions for Covid-19 across the country.

Since my last address, 7,630 Kenyans have been admitted to our hospitals for Covid-19, up from 4,990 at the time. In 13 days only, our admission rate increased by 52 per cent.

In the month of January, an average of 20 Kenyans were in Intensive Care Units, needing oxygen. This number went up to just under 30 persons in the month of February. Since my address on March 12, over 950 Kenyans have been in ICU wards for Covid-related complications.  

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This confirms the fact that the third wave of Covid-19 is at hand in Kenya. Indeed, according to our health experts, our third wave began to gain momentum at the beginning of March. It is expected to peak in the next 30 days, with more than 2,500 to 3,000 cases reported daily.

Based on experience, this peak will flatten only by mid-May 2021, which is about 60 days from now. It is because of the need to avert a national health crisis and upon the advice of the National Security Council, the Council of Governors, and also in keeping with the recommendations of the National Emergency Response Committee on Covid-19, that I have issued the new measures.

One zone area

Movement by road, rail, or air into and out of the disease-infected area as one zoned area comprising the counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru (Zoned Areas) has been suspended, including public gatherings and in-person meetings of whatever nature in those areas.

All in-person meetings of the Cabinet and its committees, with the exception of meetings of the National Security Council are suspended until further notice.

With the concurrence of the parliamentary leadership of both Houses of Parliament, and with the concurrence of county leadership; the Ordinary Sessions of the August Houses, including those of their committees, and the Ordinary Sessions of the County Assemblies of those counties are suspended, until further notice.

All persons coming into the country must be in possession of a negative Covid-19 PCR certificate, acquired no more than 96 hours prior to arrival in the country; with the PCR certificate also having been validated under the Trusted Travel platform for those travelling by air.

The hours of the ongoing nationwide curfew are revised to commence at 8pm and end at 4am in the Zoned Area. The rest of the country will observe curfew between 10pm and 4am daily, effective today (Saturday).

In light of the abuse of curfew passes, my government will immediately review the protocols for reissuance of curfew passes and exemptions. In the intervening period, all passes issued are vacated. All physical/in-person and congregational worship in all places of worship in the zoned areas now stand suspended.

In regard to the other 42 counties, in-person worship and congregational worship shall continue to be conducted in keeping with the one-third rule and in accordance with the guidelines of the Inter-Faith Council.

There shall be an immediate suspension of all on-going physical learning in all our education institutions, including universities and tertiary and vocational colleges, other than for candidates sitting their examinations and those in medical training institutions.

All sporting activities are suspended. Similarly, operations of sporting and recreational facilities, including members clubs are suspended until it is otherwise directed. In line with the directive on public gatherings, including social gatherings, operations of bars are suspended in the Zoned Areas. Similarly, the sale of alcohol in restaurants and eateries in the five counties is prohibited until further notice.

All restaurants and eateries in the Zoned Areas shall provide takeaway services only. The operations of bars, restaurants and eateries in the other 42 counties shall continue as is, but they shall at all times be conducted in strict fidelity to Ministry of Health guidelines, failure to which appropriate action against management, staff, patrons, and premises shall be taken.

Carrying capacity

Public transport operators are directed to strictly uphold the re-designated 60 per cent carrying capacity. The County Emergency Response Committees are directed to enforce implementation of infection prevention control measures in markets.

All employers and enterprises of whatever nature, including public bodies, the private sector, government offices, and others, are directed to allow employees to work from home, with the exception of employees working in critical or essential services.

Stakeholders in the criminal justice and civil justice systems are to take immediate action to eliminate non-essential physical contact or situations within their areas of mandate that may lead to crowding or propagation of the disease.

All hospitals are directed to limit the number of visitors for hospitalised patients to two visitors per patient. All physical meetings or events, including social gatherings, shall have a cap of no more than 15 persons until further notified.

In regard to funerals, cremations and other interment ceremonies, it is directed that these ceremonies shall be conducted strictly within 72 hours of confirmation of death and with only 50 persons in attendance. Celebrations of marriage or traditional unions, ceremonies of rites of passage, and all other similar events or ceremonies shall be limited to 30 persons.

The prohibition against political gatherings is extended until otherwise directed. In view of the high morbidity and mortality rates among those who are above 50 years of age, those above 58 years shall be vaccinated as a priority during this first vaccination phase.

Whereas the foregoing measures will have adverse effects on the economy and constrain our usual way of life, the measures are temporary and necessary to contain the spread of the disease and therefore stop further loss of lives.

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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