Back to lockdown to contain rising cases of Covid-19
By Allan Mungai | March 27th 2021
On the day 2,008 Kenyans tested positive for Covid-19, President Uhuru Kenyatta scaled up disease mitigation measures, closing down schools, colleges and Parliament, revising curfew hours and locking down five counties.
In what now slams breaks on Easter holiday travellers, President Kenyatta declared Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru counties as "disease infected area" and locked them out of the rest.
Kenyans residing in these five counties can visit each other but cannot leave the counties, neither can they be visited. The five counties account for the highest number of infections, deaths and hospital admissions in the country.
It was also the day the president took the matter of vaccination in his own hands, leading top government officials in receiving the jab a month after a wobbly implementation of the same by Ministry of Health mandarins.
The measures announced yesterday include the strictest limit on gatherings since the first restrictions were announced last April. All schools have been closed and all gatherings, including Cabinet, Parliament and county Assemblies in the epicentre counties, will be illegal.
In those counties, the curfew will commence at 8pm, two hours before the rest of the country, and end at 4am.
Churches in the five counties will have to close down for the period of the measures, while their counterparts in the other counties will operate in strict conformity of the measures previously announced.
The Government has also cancelled all the curfew exemption passes issued before on account of abuse.
The announcement made yesterday from State House was unexpected and came just two weeks after President Kenyatta extended restrictions and banned political gatherings.
The president explained that the data supported stricter measures in the counties. He said 70 per cent of the reported cases have been in the Nairobi metropolitan region and Nakuru.
The Government also shut down in-person learning in school, leaving only candidates sitting their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination and those in medical training institutions.
The closure of schools comes as primary and secondary institutions are on holiday until July. The effect of the closure will, however, be immediate on institutions of higher learning.
The new measures come close to the Easter weekend and will reduce the expected travel from Nairobi to the rural areas for the holiday.
President Kenyatta said he was moved to the drastic action to avert a national health crisis as hospitals strain under the pressure of an increasing number of patients and a shortage of critical care facilities.
Kenya is facing a significantly deadlier wave of the coronavirus, he said.
In the two weeks since his last address, hospital admissions have risen to 7,630, a 52 per cent increase from March 12. About 1,000 were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) wards for Covid-19 related complications.
Grip of third wave
“At the end of January 2021, our COVID-19 positivity rate stood at 2.6 per cent. By Monday 22nd March 2021, the positivity rate had jumped to 19 per cent; and indication by our experts is that the positivity rate is now settling at 22 per cent,” he said.
It is a clear indication, he said, that Kenya is now in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic. The country yesterday recorded 2,008 new infections from 11,360 samples tested, a 17.7 per cent positivity rate.
"This confirms the fact that a Third Wave of COVID-19 is at hand in Kenya. The positivity rate is at its highest since the pandemic hit us; the death rate is devastating by all measures, and the stress the pandemic is placing on our health system is unparalleled," Uhuru said.
The restrictions announced yesterday will have far-reaching implications on the economy.
However, the president said saving human life did not have a cost.
“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,” he said.
"I am convinced that the cost of not acting now would be far greater."
Only take-way services
Operations of bars are suspended in the five counties, and the sale of alcohol in restaurants and eateries is prohibited. In-house eating has also been prohibited, restaurants will now offer only take-away services.
While international travel into and out of the country will continue, Uhuru directed that all persons coming into the country must be in possession of a negative Covid-19 PCR certificate, acquired less than four days before their arrival.
While the restrictions are in place indefinitely, by all likelihood, they may last until mid-May when the Ministry of Health expects the peak to flatten.
Uhuru and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta received their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine yesterday, as the president sent out a message that the vaccine was safe amid a slow uptake.
The shots will now be given to those above 58 years of age as the government attempts to lower the mortality rates among patients older than 50.
Other measures announced yesterday included a limit on the number of attendees to weddings and funerals at 30 and 50, respectively.
All physical events have been capped at 15 persons while hospitals have been directed to limit the number of visitors for hospitalised patients to two per patient.
The Judiciary, law enforcement, remand and correctional facilities and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have also been ordered to scale down their operations and limit non-essential physical contact.
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