Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday dampened hopes for a full economic recovery, saying to ‘avert a national health crisis due to rising infections, cessation of all movement in and out of four counties was reintroduced to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the head of state in his televised address, the positivity rate in the country was at its highest since the pandemic, the death rate is devastating by all measures, and the stress the pandemic is placing on our health system is unparalleled.
“This wave is expected to peak in the next 30 days with more than 2,500 to 3,000 cases reported daily. Based on experience, this peak will flatten only by Mid-May 2021, which is about 60 days from now,” said President Uhuru while invoking Public Order No. 2 of 2021.
As a result, the Counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru were individually and collectively declared a disease infected area.
“That there shall be a cessation of all movement by road, rail, or air into and out of the disease infected area as one zoned area comprising of the Counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru, effective Midnight tonight – Meaning, Saturday 27th March 2021; until otherwise notified.”
#covid19Ke Kindly note that the Cessation of Movement is in and out of the 5 counties (Nairobi, Nakuru, Kiambu, Machakos, and Kajiado) as One Zoned Area. You can therefore move freely within the five counties. You will not however be able to leave and enter the One Zoned Area
— Nzioka Waita (@NziokaWaita) March 26, 2021
In addition, all public gatherings and in-person meetings of whatever nature are suspended within the Counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru until further notice.
No measures to safeguard livelihoods and businesses
However, the government did not announce any measures to balance between livelihood and COVID-19 control measures as the country grappled to contain the third wave of the pandemic.
The country’s tourism and hospitality industry are likely to become the first casualty of the newly announced measures.
“Today’s cessation of movements is equivalent to a knee on the neck of the tourism industry. We can’t breathe,” Tweeted Mohammed Hersi, Chairman, Kenya Tourism Federation.
Hasnain Noorani, Group Managing Director of the Pride Group says although he appreciates the concern for health, safety and the rising covid cases, a total travel cessation really affects business for Hotels & Tourism establishments.
“Perhaps a review to be done by the government, just like international arrivals, where anyone who has a negative PCR certificate should be allowed to travel across the Zone to other counties. That way it allows our international leisure and domestic tourism to continue. This would actually encourage more testing to happen whilst allowing business to go on and yet curb the spread,” he paused.
Consequently, without a specific end date to the measures announced coupled with the end of measures to offer relief and increase disposable income to citizens such as tax breaks, employment support, and loan deferment to cushion them against the impact of coronavirus, there is a likelihood of a surge in unemployment, loss of income for the citizens.
In 2020, the economy lost an estimated KSh560 billion in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government Spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna on Saturday while explaining the directive, said:
“These measures may be inconveniencing and even disruptive to our livelihoods and activities. However, life is sacred, and we must protect it at all cost.”
“The pain and anguish that Covid-19 has visited on many of us should be enough reason for us to work together to contain it.”
Lockdown should not be indefinite
The Civil Society Reference Group, an alliance of diverse CSOs in the country, however, faulted the government stating that the lockdown should not be indefinite.
“If indeed the government relied on the advice of public health experts to impose the latest lockdown and seemed to have an idea when the curve is likely to flatten in mid-May as the President announced, then it is equally duty-bound to be more definite and make the lockdown time-bound to avoid abuse of power,” the Group said in a statement issued Sunday.
“This way, citizens most affected by the measures are better able to plan their lives and mitigate the potentially devastating effects of the lockdown even as citizens expect the government to unveil plans that will support the society to deal with increases in economic inequality, unemployment, debt, and poverty,” Suba Churchill
Presiding Convener, Civil Society Reference Group.
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Updated: Saturday and Sunday with updates from the Government Spokesperson and the Civil Society Reference Group.