Status quo to remain as coronavirus persists

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President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta has, once again, ruled out a total lockdown, even as he warned those who are “deliberately taking lightly the threat of Covid-19”.

In an interview with leading Swahili radio stations, the president insisted that his government is pulling out all the stops to ensure that Kenya does not resort to a total lockdown.

“We do not want to go for a total lockdown. We have said that as many people as possible should work from home, but we have allowed those that must go to work to do so. But even then, they must follow the guidelines we have given out,” President Kenyatta said.

“People can still get food from markets; we have given farmers fertilisers to continue planting, and we have listed food transportation as an essential service. Food security remains one of our main focus as a government.”

President Kenyatta was speaking to Kenyans through Radio Citizen, Radio Jambo, Radio Maisha, Milele FM and KBC Radio Taifa.

PROTECTING LIVES

This comes as he ordered a review of measures — to be announced in 48 hours — to curb the virus spread in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale, where, together with Nairobi Metropolitan Area, there is a cessation of movement into and out of the devolved units.

“The president has directed a review of the enforcement of public health measures rolled out to stem the growing rate of infection in the counties of Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi with a view to introducing more stringent measures to enhance the enforcement of the same,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said in a statement.

He also announced the start of a 21-day stop of movement into and out of Mandera, which now has eight cases.

The government on April 6 introduced a partial lockdown in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area and the three Coast counties two days later, owing to their high infection numbers.

This was in addition to a 30-day countrywide curfew imposed on March 28. Today, Kenya enters its 27th day of the night curfew, with strong indications that it might be extended.

“I cannot tell you now whether we will extend or lift the curfew guidelines. It will all depend on the disease. Our biggest task is to save lives. And when that time comes, and it is about to, then we will take their [experts] advice before we make our decisions,” President Kenyatta said.

BAD ATTITUDE

He also ruled out relaxing the dusk-to-dawn curfew rules to allow Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadhan.

Some Muslim clerics had called for the curfew to start at 9pm rather than 7pm.

“We told Christians during Easter that you cannot mark this day … We respect all religions but we have said that let us all celebrate and mark these religious days in our homes, on radio and on television.

“I ask our Muslim brothers and sisters to mark the holy month of Ramadhan like they have not done before because these are extraordinary times,” he said.

In the interview, President Kenyatta said Kenyans’ lack of seriousness regarding Covid-19 has turned out to be his government’s biggest challenge in the fight against the pandemic.

“What we have said is that those breaking the regulations we have given, no need to take them to the police station; let them be taken to mandatory quarantine. If they break those rules again, take them back. We cannot have a few people erode the efforts we have made,” he said.

INDIVIDUAL ROLE

The president said the 50 people reported to have escaped KMTC quarantine centre in Nairobi will be arrested and forced to complete the isolation period.

Further, he called for personal responsibility in boosting the government’s efforts.

“Those that think this disease does not exist, for the safety of your family and loved ones, do what is necessary to protect them. Stay away. Do not put people at risk because you do not think it is serious.”

He also said getting the reagents and testing kits needed in the fight against the highly contagious virus is another challenge.

Nevertheless, the government targets to test a quarter of a million people by June, with 20,000 testing kits ready to be rolled out for targeted mass testing.

Kenya now has 303 Covid-19 cases, with 14 confirmed deaths. A total of 74 people have recovered from the disease.

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