Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered a further 30-day extension of the country’s nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew.
However, the movement of food supplies and other cargo will continue as normal during the declared containment period through road, railway, and air.
In a briefing on Saturday on the Coronavirus pandemic at State House, Nairobi, the president, however, relaxed the curfew hours to be between 9 pm to 4 am from June 7, 2020.
The President also extended the cessation of movement into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Mombasa, and Mandera by an additional 30 days.
The Head of State said that majority of the persons who have contracted the disease are residents of the Nairobi metropolitan area and the Kenyan coastal strip.
“82% of Kenya’s reported cases of COVID-19 have been in respect of residents of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area and 14% of Kenya’s reported cases of COVID-19 have been in respect of residents of the counties of Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa.”
The Ministry of Health said as of June 6, the total caseload of positive cases in the country had risen to 2,600 from cumulative tests of 94,507. This was as a result of 126 people testing positive for the coronavirus from 3,632 samples tested.
“The country registered the highest number of recoveries. In the last 24 hours, 63 people have been discharged from hospital, after recovering from Covid-19. The cumulative number of discharges now stands at 706,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe terming it ‘An achievement that could not have been possible, without the zeal and devotion to duty by our healthcare workers.”
Fortunately, the cessation of movement in Kwale and Kilifi counties and movement into and out of Eastleigh and Old Town was lifted from 4 am June 7, 2020.
“We must accept that we are not dealing with a right or wrong opinion we are caught in between two rights. Those who want to open the economy are right and those opposed to opening the economy are also right,” he said.
The President said the decision to extend the curfew and cessation of movement was arrived at after consultations between him, the Ministry of Health officials as well as health experts.
“The question we must ponder is whether we have met this threshold in order to lift the restrictions. Have the cases of infections taken a downturn, for instance? And the answer is NO. Nairobi and Mombasa are taking the lead with new infections.”
“I wanted to reopen our economy but experts feel that a lot still needs to be done before we fully remove the restrictions,” he said.
“Truth be told, if we had not taken the stringent measures we did in March 2020, the rate of infections would have peaked to 800,000 people by July 30th And if one infected person has potential to infect two people, this number would have hit 2.4 million people in 21 days. By the end of August, 75,000 Kenyans would have died from this virus. But because of the early interventions we took, we have recorded only 2,600 infections and 83 deaths,” he said.
“Further, if we relax the interventions by 40 percent, the infections will peak in November 2020 with 300,000 infected and 40,000 deaths. And if we relax them by 60 percent, the pandemic will peak in October with 450,000 infections and 45,000 deaths,” he added.
Dr. Jacquiline Kitulu, President of the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) had warned against any consideration of easing movement restrictions and reopening of schools, entertainment facilities, and religious establishments.
“Any considerations… must acknowledge the risk of a very rapid escalation of patients visiting hospitals due to both Covis-19 and other causes with the attendant risk of overwhelming the health system and causing many preventable deaths,” she warned.
According to KMA, for such an action to be considered, there was a need to strengthen the health system because the government lacks the capacity to conduct significant community-based testing that would help keep track of the transmission of the virus in the country.
International & Domestic Travel
The President adhering to advice from the National Security Council also extended international travel restrictions as a result of the ‘evolving nature of the disease globally’. The ban was first initiated on Wednesday, March 25th.
“In the meantime, the Ministry of Transport is directed within seven days from the date hereof, to engage all Key Stakeholders and develop protocols to guide resumption of local air travel,” he said.
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Kwame Owino Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Economic commented that “I think it’s a sensible compromise but I am still nervous that the randomized mass testing has not been emphasized. An important issue is that schools are still closed.”
His sentiments collaborate with KMA, who had said due to the shortage of testing kits and fact that the government is unlikely to get these in sufficient quantities to track community transmission of the pandemic, the community testing strategy needs to be reevaluated and possibly abandoned.
“Periodic random sampling and testing should be conducted in nationally representative samples for purposes of tracking the pandemic,” KMA recommended.
President Kenyatta ordered the Education, Health ministries to issue guidelines on a gradual return to normalcy in the education sector by mid-August.