Africa 

Kenya coronavirus: Cases rise to 158, Uhuru locks down Nairobi, three counties

April 6: Kenya cases rise to 158, transport regulations being enforced

President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed that the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country stood at 158 as of April 6, an increase of 16 new cases.

The president was delivering an address on Monday on measures that government continued to take in combating the virus that has claimed six lives so far. Kenya has also recorded four recoveries.

The president declared the cessation of movement in Nairobi, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa Counties for 21 days. He disclosed that 82% of COVID-19 have been in Nairobi and 14 per cent have been in the other coastal counties.

The Nairobi directive starts today (Monday) at 7 pm while that of the other counties will begin from Wednesday.Some quotes from the president’s address:

  • A majority of those who have contracted the disease are from Nairobi metropolitan area, Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa counties
  • This coronavirus does not care about religion, tribe or size of your wallet. Defeating it will require us to put aside our differences and stand together. Make no mistake, we are at war and we must be together to win this war
  • We must heed and comply with govt directives. We must take extra care not to expose those over 50 years
  • I will go to any lawful length to respond to covid-19…There is a choice we have to make: do we live as normal or fundamentally change the way we live?
  • Our greatness will show in the sacrifices we make to protect one another. Wearing your mask and washing hands does indeed save lives

Kenya has started enforcing a set of rules for transport operators in the wake of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Transport Minister James Macharia said on Sunday that flouters will face the law.

“From Monday April 6, 2020, any public transport vehicle found not observing the set directives, will have their Sacco licenses suspended and the vehicle bonded.”

The set rules in question are a cut down on the number of passengers that a vehicle can carry as part of social distancing measures. Kenya is also stressing the need for people to wear their masks as frequently as possible.

Top official of the health ministry as of yesterday confirmed that local production of the masks was advanced adding that disbursements were to be done at the county level by organized groups.

April 4: Raila urges social discipline and respect for directives

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has urged citizens to remain disciplined and look out for loved ones amid the coronavirus outbreak that has forced government to impose a night-time curfew across the country.

According to the Orange Democratic Movement leader, the time to fight the pandemic was now and it rested on every individual and on all Kenyans. His views were contained in a statement issued on Saturday, April 4.

It read in part: “If we don’t take personal control now, there will be no control to take later. You remain in my thoughts and prayers. I am calling on every Kenyan to use his or her existing personal social connections and ask them daily to protect themselves from the coronavirus.”

Odinga also underlined the need for citizens to check on one another during these times reiterating his call a week ago that there was the need to respect all regulations put in place by authorities to help defeat the pandemic.

“Do not focus on strangers. Focus on people you have a personal relationship with,” Raila stressed the critical role young people had to play with resources at their disposal. He tasked the youth to be Kenya’s new soldiers and saviours.

“Use the advantages of technology and social media to encourage your friends to stay safe and to keep them company from a social distance,” he added.

In a report released by technology giant Google, social spots across Kenya have increasingly been abandoned in the wake of social distancing measures put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic. “This type of data is used to show how crowded certain types of places are,” Google explained in a statement.

The report noted that shopping malls, restaurants and recreational spots recorded considerably lower visits between a three week period in March (March 8 – March 29).

Some findings over the period were as follows:

  • Customer traffic to restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, libraries and movie theatres dropped by 45%.
  • Traffic to bus and train stations similarly went down by 39%.
  • Open-air markets, food warehouses, drug stores and pharmacies recorded a 33% drop.
  • Residential estates marked the only rise in traffic, recording 17% more movement.
  • Places of work on the other hand recorded a 22% drop.

The report uses anonymised data from users on Google Maps relying on the location data to create an accurate pattern of real-time social movement across the country.

Explaining the reason for releasing the report at this time, the tech giant said: “Google has heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymised data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat Covid-19.”

READ MORE: Cafes, malls big losers in war against pandemic

April 3: Kilifi deputy governor arrested, pastors want churches to be made “essential”

Deputy governor of Kilifi County has been arrested by authorities for failing to self-isolate. Gideon Saburi was declared virus-free yesterday after undergoing treatment.

On Friday, he was handcuffed after his release and taken away by security operatives from the Coast General Hospital where he was treated.

He is one of four recovered patients in the country where records indicate that 2,201 tests have been conducted with the case toll at 122 and death toll at 4. Kenya recored a boom in cases with over 40 cases in two days.

Meanwhile a group of pastors are appealing for churches to be added to “essential services” allowed to operate during the pandemic. Government is currently enforcing a night time curfew along with strict social interaction rules.

The bloc from Kenya’s eastern Makueni insist that faith is the “best way to fight the unseen enemy.” Per their request, they want to be allowed to hold Sunday services in open grounds, while adhering to the proposed one-metre distance between people to prevent infection.

“It is sad that in the current situation, the church has been left out, closed (and) we feel that as a country, we may be involved in a futile exercise. The church even though a spiritual institution has a reference point on the altar.

“To us, the church is the last place of hope and resilience, indeed a safe haven to the downtrodden and the stricken by any form of calamity… we feel that the church was left out and excluded, we feel that we were unfairly locked out of solution providers to the predicament affecting our people,” spokesperson of the pastors, Nicholas Kyule, said.

Another, Titus Uswii, was quoted in the Star Newspaper as saying that the country “may be involved in a futile exercise” as long as churches remain closed.

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April 2: Confirmed cases rise to 110

Some new developments announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Health include:

  • Kenya records two deaths, bringing total deaths to three
  • Deputy Governor of Kilifi County has fully recovered and shall face the law in due course
  • Members of the public advised to put on masks when getting into a matatu (commercial buses)
  • Local production of masks and PPEs has began
  • People in high traffic areas are advised to put on masks as a precautionary measure
  • Government shall be hiring 5000 health workers across the counties to begin immediately

April 2: Kenya to receive $50m World Bank loan

Kenya’s request to the World Bank for $50m to fund containment efforts of the coronavirus pandemic has been approved according to Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe.

Minister Kagwe confirms that the funds will largely go into boosting capacity of frontline staff – i.e. buying protective gear for health workers, hand sanitizers, increasing bed capacity in hospitals is another area government will focus on.

Kenya’s health workers are on recorded to have protested the lack of protective gear in hospitals, multiple local media outlets have reported.

Out of 81 confirmed cases (as of April 1) in the country, one health worker has tested positive – with local media reporting it had happened after the person came into contact with an infected patient.

Meanwhile, the Ministry says tracing of close contacts of the 81 confirmed cases is on-going. 1675 close contacts have been monitored, 706 have been discharged after completing the 14 days follow up period. Currently, the ministry is monitoring 969 close contacts of confirmed cases.

April 1: Cases at 81, Kenya okays chloroquine for category of treatment

Kenya has toppled Rwanda to become the most impacted mainland East African country with 81 cases as against Rwanda’s 75. Government is struggling to enforce an evening curfew that started late last week.

The country confirmed its biggest tally hike for a day with 22 new cases out of a number of people on quarantine. Out of the figures, 18 were nationals with two Cameroonians and Pakistanis.

So far three people have recovered whiles one death was recorded days back. A Senegalese medic recently defended the use of the drug saying its benefits outweighed the risks many people feared.

As a measure of treatment, the Kenyan government has approved the use of chloroquine, one of the oldest anti-malarial drugs, to treat the coronavirus, according to a local news outlet Citizen TV.

The drug will however be administered strictly to critical patients, Health Director General Patrick Amoth is quoted as saying. Dr Amoth said at the moment there were no critical cases to warrant such an intervention. Most cases are mild and the authorities are treating the symptoms for now, he is quoted as saying

Last month, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board banned the sale of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine over the counter at pharmacies. The ban was a move to prevent people from stocking or using the drug as a preventive measure for the virus.

Nigeria’s Lagos recorded spike in cases of chloroquine overdose after US President Donald Trump hyped the medicine as treatment for coronavirus. Medical authorities in the US denied that it had been approved for treatment.

Medical experts say chloroquine requires further clinical study and might not be the cure of Covid-19.

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March 29: Enforcement of coronavirus lockdown turns violent in parts of Africa

Police fired tear gas at a crowd of Kenyan ferry commuters as the country’s first day of a coronavirus curfew slid into chaos. Elsewhere, officers were captured in mobile phone footage whacking people with batons.

Virus prevention measures have taken a violent turn in parts of Africa as countries impose lockdowns and curfews or seal off major cities. Health experts say the virus’ spread, though still at an early stage, resembles the arc seen in Europe, adding to widespread anxiety.

Cases across Africa were set to climb above 4,000 late Saturday. Abuses of the new measures by authorities are an immediate concern. Minutes after South Africa’s three-week lockdown began Friday, police screamed at homeless people in downtown Johannesburg and went after some with batons.

Some citizens reported the police use of rubber bullets. Fifty-five people across the country were arrested. The country leads Africa with more than 1,000 cases. In an apparent show of force on Saturday, South Africa’s military raided a large workers’ hostel in the Alexandra township where some residents had defied the lockdown.

In Rwanda, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to impose a lockdown, police have denied that two civilians shot dead Monday were killed for defying the new measures, saying the men attacked an officer after being stopped.

And Zimbabwe, where police are widely criticized by human rights groups for deadly crackdowns, is set to enter a three-week lockdown on Monday. The country’s handful of virus cases already threatens to overwhelm one of the world’s most fragile health systems.

In Kenya, outrage over the the actions of police was swift.

“We were horrified by excessive use of police force” ahead of the curfew that began Friday night, Amnesty International Kenya and 19 other human rights groups said in a statement issued Saturday. “We continue to receive testimonies from victims, eyewitnesses and video footage showing police gleefully assaulting members of the public in other parts of the country.”

The tear gas caused hundreds of people trying to reach a ferry in the port city of Mombasa ahead of the overnight curfew to touch their faces as they vomited, spat and wiped away tears, increasing the chance of the virus’ spread, the rights groups said. Even some health workers reported being intimidated as they tried to provide services after the 7 p.m. curfew.

The police actions were unacceptable and “brutal,” the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission said in a separate statement.

“I am appealing to our people to make it very unnecessary for them to engage with police by staying at home,” Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for health, Mutahi Kagwe, said. “I am also urging the police that people must be treated humanely.” The country has 38 virus cases.

Kenya’s interior ministry on Saturday replied to criticism in a statement saying the curfew “is meant to guard against an apparent threat to public health. Breaking it is not only irresponsible but also puts others in harm’s way.”

Kenya’s government has not said how many people have been arrested. Because courts are also affected by virus prevention measures, all but serious cases will now be dealt with at police stations, the government has said. That means anyone detained for violating curfew faces time in crowded cells.

The Law Society of Kenya will go to court to challenge the curfew on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and has been abused by police, president Nelson Havi said in a statement. The penalty for breaking a curfew is not corporal punishment, he added.

“It is evident that COVID-19 will be spread more by actions of police than of those claimed to have contravened the curfew,” Havi said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

If Kenya goes further and imposes a lockdown, “there is bound to be violence,” said James Shikwati, an economist. People in poor neighborhoods of cities like the capital, Nairobi, will need a way to access food, water and sanitation.

“It will mean for the first day, maybe, they stay indoors,” he said. “Then the second day, when they are hungry, they will move out.”

Credit: AP

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