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State not ready for total lockdown in hotspots

Mural paintings at Buxton county government's flats in Mombasa to create awareness against the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. [Gideon Kivindu, Standard]

The government has rejected a request by governors from counties rocked by coronavirus to impose a total lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In pushing back on the plea for a total lockdown in the counties of Nairobi, Mandera, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale, the State said it could paralyse ferry and port operations and expose residents to hunger despite the county bosses insisting they had mapped areas with vulnerable people who need assistance.

On Sunday, Interior and National Coordination Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i chaired a crucial meeting with the governors of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Mandera that are hard-hit by the pandemic to discuss interventions.

Insiders at the meeting said Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho pushed for the lockdown, but after deliberations on the pros and cons, the meeting resolved to continue with the partial lockdown.

Mr Joho is said to have told the meeting they have mapped out the entire county and are in a position to send food supplies and other aids during this period to help in the reduction of Covid-19 cases in the county.

Dr Matiang’i, who also chairs the National Emergency Response Committee, hosted his colleagues Mutahi Kagwe (Health), James Macharia (Transport), and Ukur Yatani (National Treasury) and Solicitor General Ken Ogeto and governors Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Joho and Ali Roba (Mandera) at Harambee House.

Mr Kingi wanted Sh315 million for food for 50,000 households while Mr Mvurya asked for Sh480 million. But Yatani only approved Sh150 million for each of the worst-hit counties.

Matiangi’s meeting followed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s concerns on the worrying trends in the hotspot counties, where the Covid-19 cases are on the rise.

At the meeting, CS Macharia is reported to have cautioned on the idea of a total lockdown, saying it will paralyse operations in the coastal region and instead advocated for a scale-down of staff at the ferry.

“We have already asked 3,500 staff out of 6,500 at the KPA to stay at home. The rest will continue working but in strict compliance with the government’s guidelines to curb the spread of the virus,” the CS told the meeting.

The National Government will continue to work closely with governors across the country in collaboration with the national administration structures to provide for vulnerable households.

Uhuru said to ensure that porous borders and security threats do not compromise the response to the pandemic, the security services will upgrade their alert and response measures at border points.

“If this worrying trend does not reverse, more stringent measures will be taken in consultation with the county governments,” he said.

He promised to continue using the best scientific and medical advice to calibrate the response.

Joho said the biggest challenge was how to get the workers to their workplace and back home without posing a threat to their families and the public.

Work out

Macharia promised to work out details of scaling down port workers. The meeting deliberated on mass testing of workers and the public.

There were initial proposals to keep the workers in a hotel, but this was not feasible because no hotel has such a capacity.

Governor Roba said they discussed strategies on Covid-19 containment in the counties which have been profiled as hotspots.

“We discussed how to support Mandera with testing capabilities following the grounding of public transport including flights to and from Mandera,” he said.

Council of Governors Health Committee chairman Mohammed Kuti said they had 5,000 testing kits for counties and expect to get 24,000 this week to enable them to conduct mass testing.

“The kits are not available, even in the USA they are not enough. This is because the kits are limited globally,” said Dr Kuti.

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