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Father heads back to his rural home as the coronavirus spreads

By Reuters | April 4th 2020 at 12:04:26 GMT +0300

Peter Omollo initially decided to stay put in Nairobi when the coronavirus emerged in Kenya.

A passenger carries her child before boarding a disinfected public transport bus as residents leave for the villages amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in downtown Nairobi, Kenya March 25, 2020. [REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo]

But then as the infections started to mount and his own employer told him to take leave, he knew it was time to rejoin his wife and children in the family home more than 300km (180 miles) away on the shores of Lake Victoria.

“If someone in my family even reported a cough, and as a father who is far away, I get worried. I decided to be with them,” Omollo said.

The government has urged people to stay in the capital to stop the virus spreading to poorer and less-developed rural areas.

But thousands of people have been packing their bags and heading back to their villages, hoping to outrun the infection.

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Omollo joined them last week, making the eight-hour journey back to Kisumu on a bus kept half empty to obey new social distancing rules.

His employer, a Christian charity, had initially told him to work from home in Nairobi. “The nature of my work is really one that you can’t do at home... I deal with groups,” he said.

Then he was asked to use up his annual leave allotment, which runs out at the end of April. He is not sure what will happen after that and if or when he might return.

In the meantime, he is keeping himself busy setting up a kitchen garden and helping out around the house.

He has also started conducting church services from his home, with his family as the congregation.

On Sunday, Omollo held up a bible in front of an animal-print sofa in the living room, as afternoon light flooded in through orange curtains. His wife and daughter sang as his 13-year-old son played the keyboard.

“Us who are born again, we do not have to fear,” he told them.  

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