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I have reopened the nation, but we are still facing an invisible enemy, be civil

By President Uhuru Kenyatta | July 7th 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Fellow Kenyans,

When I last addressed you on June 6th this year, the nation was confronted with a dilemma of two rights over the Covid-19 crisis. The two dominant positions were whether to re-open the country or not. One side of the divide presented an economic argument.  They wanted us to re-open the country and save the economy.

They argued that Covid-19 was a health crisis alright; but it was also an economic crisis at the core.  If we take care of the economics of Corona, they argued, the health crisis will be easier to manage; more so with the necessary protocols in place.

The opposite side tabled a compelling case against re-opening the country.  Made up of medical scientists and researchers, the experts argued that the country was not ready. Their models pointed to a soaring crisis if we re-opened without the necessary health protocols. 

A series of irreducible minimums had to be met before we could consider easing the containment measures. After much reflection, my Administration opted for the health argument over the economic argument. More so because we can always revive an ailing economy; but we cannot bring back to life those who die from this pandemic.  And with this as our chosen path, we set out to build the irreducible minimums.

The leadership of all the critical stakeholders we have consulted on this path for the last month is standing behind me today.  And the question before us is the following: Have we met this irreducible minimum?  Are we ready to re-open?

According to the experts and stakeholders, we have not met the irreducible minimum 100%. However, consensus among them is that we have reached a reasonable level of preparedness across the country to allow us to re-open. With this expert opinion at hand, and the counsel offered by the National Security Council (NSC), I, today, announce a phased re-opening of the country as follows:

One, I order and direct that the cessation of movement into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Mombasa County and Mandera County, shall lapse at 4am on Tuesday, 7th July, 2020. The nationwide curfew between the hours of 9pm and 4am daily, be extended by a further 30 days. By re-opening Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera, we are more at risk than we were when the restrictions were in place. We must, therefore, exercise cautious optimism, and avoid reckless abandon.

Although the path to recovery is rocky and uneven, it is navigable. And this is why I must give two qualifications to the phased re-opening.

Firstly, the order to re-open is given conditionally.  Should the situation deteriorate and pose a challenge to our health infrastructure, it shall be ‘clawed back’.  In the next 21 days, we shall study patterns of interactions and the spread of the disease. Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to the lock-down at zero-option.

Secondly, this order will only bear fruit, if we exercise shared responsibility. My intention is to re-open and remain open.  The ‘claw back’ option is not on my wish list at all.

But to re-open and remain open, you MUST become your brother’s keeper.  While the government will, no doubt, do its part to achieve the desired wish of remaining open, you, mwananchi must also do what is expected of you personally to achieve it.  This is, therefore a national call to civic responsibility.

On this I must add that, civic responsibility is not a demand placed on the self by the state.  It is not a demand that can be enforced. It is a duty you pay to your fellow countrymen for co-existing with them.

It is a voluntary act of goodwill expressed to your neighbours in good times and in bad times.  It is a civic duty to defend and protect yourself, your family and the environment.

Places of worship

My call to you all, therefore, is to minimise unnecessary contact and movement.  I encourage Kenyans to consider delaying non-essential up-country travel, and exercise extreme caution and fidelity to the correct usage of face-masks, hand washing and sanitisation, physical and social distancing, and concern for the health of the elderly and immune-depressed persons. And remember there are no unbearable responsibilities in the face of a crisis like the one we are in.

With the advice of the National Security Council and the National Emergency Response Committee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, I further order following phased measures:

Places of worship will commence phased re-opening for congregational worship and public (in-person) worship in strict conformity with all applicable guidelines and protocols, including the self-regulating guidelines developed by the Inter-Faith Council;

In line with the guidelines issued by the Inter-Faith Council, only a maximum of 100 participants will be allowed at each worship ceremony and not be more than one hour.

Sunday Schools and Madrassas shall remain suspended until further notice, and in-person worship shall not include congregants under the age of 13 or above the age of 58 or persons with underlying conditions.

Following consultations with stakeholders in the education sector, and cognizant of the surge in the rate of infections, the Ministry of Education shall jointly with all stakeholders shall today, not later than tomorrow, notify the public on the resumption of the 2020 academic calendar for basic education and tertiary institutions. 

Conscious that movement of people is a catalyst for the spread of the disease, there shall be no movement of public transport vehicles into and out of the areas previously under cessation of movement restrictions, without the public transport providers being compliant with all protocols developed by Ministry of Health.  To operate, Public Service Vehicles the operators will require mandatory certification from the Ministry of Health, in consultation with Ministry of Transport.  

Local air travel shall resume effective Wednesday, 15th July, 2020; in strict conformity with all applicable guidelines and protocols from both the Ministry of Health and civil aviation authorities.

International air shall resume on 1st August, 2020; in strict conformity with all protocols from the Ministry of Health, local and international civil aviation authorities, and any additional requirements applicable at the ports of departure, arrival or transit.

Prohibition against social and political gatherings, of whatever nature, is extended for a further period of 30 days. The restriction of the operation of bars to ‘take-away’ only, and the restrictions on the number of persons who can attend weddings and funerals is extended for a further 30 days.

The ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development shall establish protocols for resumption of importation and sale of imported/second-hand clothes.

As we implement the phased re-opening, I remain alive to the economic and social challenges facing our country. Jobs have been lost, businesses have closed and livelihoods endangered. And this is the sorry state of things the world over.

 But history has taught us that the Covid crisis is not the first health disaster with such enormous economic challenges. There were many more before this one.  However, those who overcame previous disasters and finished on top, began by first changing their mind sets.

Put differently, it is not enough for government to pump resources into the economy using stimulus instruments, as we have done.  Such efforts will go to waste if the people do not co-create solutions with the government. Those who overcame previous disasters in history did so because they acted as one.  The people and their government entered into a joint-venture to subjugate their challenges. This, therefore means for us to revive the economy, re-open and remain open, the government and its people must pull together.

Re-imagine the nation

Today, I have invited you to exercise civic responsibility towards each other.  But I do not want you to exercise this responsibility in the fight only against COVID-19 pandemic.  I want you to have a shared responsibility with government in reviving our economy.  And for us to do this by first changing our national mind-set. We have the opportunity to stitch a “new national mindset garment as it were”.

My Madaraka Day Speech of June 1st 2020 set the stage for this change in mind-set.  I challenged all of us to re-imagine Kenya the way our Founding Fathers imagined “a nation from nothing”.  And today, with a much younger population, I challenge you to re-imagine our economic and business models as we re-open tomorrow.  We must remember that coronavirus is an invisible enemy.  We cannot confront this enemy because we cannot see it; we can only evade it.  And evading an invisible enemy calls for imagination.

Instead of doing business as usual, therefore, the moment calls us to do business unusual. When we re-open, we cannot use the old maps to navigate the new lands created by the moment. We must have the courage to let go the old MODELS of yesterday in order to find the new opportunities presented by this crisis today. Those who will change their mind-set and embrace the new normal, will be favoured by destiny. I particularly encourage our young people to take up this challenge of re-imagining our business models.

And yes, they may have no capital, but the currency of the Covid moment is ideas and young Kenyans are a flora of ideas.

I note with satisfaction that our textile industry has already seized the moment and leveraged on the silver lining presented by the Covid crisis to create opportunities for our fellow countrymen. Owing to this initiative, Kenya is today emerging as a net exporter of PPEs to the region.

I applaud the Covid-19 Response Fund for contracting the local industry to produce PPEs for our healthcare workers.  I encourage other sectors of our economy to re-imagine Kenya as a net exporter.

Turning to the social front as my last point, I am concerned by increasing tensions within our homes.  Cases of gender-based violence have increased, mental health issues have worsened, and instances of teenage pregnancy have escalated.

I appeal to social institutions, including the religious institutions, to exercise civic responsibility to bring these unfortunate trends to an end.

We must always remember that the family is a projection of the State.  If the family is under attack, the State is under attack.  If the family is weak, the country is weak.

Therefore, to fortify our protection of the family as the foundation of the State, I further order that the National Crime Research Centre to probe: the escalating cases of gender-based violence;  the worrying trend of cases where the girl child has been disempowered; and the violation of children’s rights.

Finally, and as a fact of history, a CRISIS has two elements to it.  The first is danger, the second is opportunity.  Success is given to the person who exploits the opportunity and evades the danger.  And to exploit the opportunities given to us as we re-open, our mind-set must be that of a maker-of-things.

We must remain positive because a “…positive nation is a FORWARD moving NATION”. Thank You and God Bless You; and God Bless Kenya.

- President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ninth address to the nation, yesterday.

Covid 19 Time Series


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