Bars, politicians to bear brunt of new Covid safety measures

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Wycliffe Oparanya, LREB chair and Kakamega governor. Photo/File

Closure of bars and a ban on political rallies are on the cards in fresh restrictions, set to be imposed by President Uhuru Kenyatta today, to contain the rising number of deaths and infections resulting from coronavirus.

With the number of new infections increasing considerably, the government is also reported to have put on hold earlier proposals to have the remaining lot of learners resume classes this month.

Nonetheless, learning for Form Four, Standard Eight and Grade Four learners will continue without disruption.

Also on the cards is enhancement of night curfew by almost four hours as well as stricter measures on political rallies, funerals and other social gatherings, amid fears of resistance from politicians who have kicked off campaigns for the Building Bridges Initiative across the country. Yesterday, 492 more people tested positive and 12 succumbed to the disease.

The government is also likely to delegate some powers to governors to decide whether or not to impose specific containment measures in their respective counties, whenever there is a spike.

“Instead of imposing something like a lockdown on the entire country, we may decide governors in their areas of jurisdiction, in consultation with the national government, may decide the type of containment measures to put in place in their areas,” a highly-placed source told People Daily. 

Heated meeting

Uhuru is this morning expected to unveil the new measures after chairing an extraordinary meeting with governors, top government officials and other stakeholders on Covid-19. 

Meanwhile, Deputy President William Ruto announced yesterday he will be scaling down his public engagements due to upsurge in Covid-19 cases.

“The upsurge in Covid-19 cases strongly indicates that a second wave may be in the offing. For this reason, I have decided to significantly scale down my public engagements until further notice.

The empowerment meetings for this weekend in Machakos, Kitui and Makueni are postponed,” Ruto tweeted.

Ahead of the meeting, the National Co-ordination Committee on the Response to the coronavirus Pandemic chaired by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and the Council of Governors (CoG), held separate meetings in Nairobi yesterday to deliberate on some of the measures to be implemented to control the spread of the virus.

At the end of the two hour heated meeting, the governors came up with demands they need the central government to implement, among them suspending all funerals, church services and public gatherings.

The governors also want health workers supported with an allowance for another three months, counties be allowed to introduce extra protocols to manage the pandemic, trade unions to suspend all strikes until end of the pandemic.

The county bosses also propose that all schools be re-opened in January 2021 and the national government to issue an Executive order compelling all insurance companies to cover Covid-19 related casexpenses without extra charges.

“The Ministry of Health and counties to utilise the rapid testing kits validated and registered by the Kenya Medical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians Board and Pharmacy and Poisons Board, to bolster testing and help determine  the prevalence of Covid-19,”the governors said in their resolutions.

With an accumulation of more than 100 deaths and over 5,000 new cases in a week, the Matiang’i-led committee and governors are reported to have proposed the introduction of stiffer measures.

Statistics indicate the country recorded about 17,000 new infections in October, accounting for 30 per cent of the total number of confirmed cases since March.

The country recorded 285 deaths in the same month, translating to 28 per cent of the total fatalities.

Proposals from the two groups are likely to form the basis of the President’s address to the nation today.

Last week, State House disclosed that the President had convened the 6th Extraordinary session of the National and County Governments Summit, to discuss and find mitigating measures to curb the increasing cases of infections across the country.

Today’s summit is expected to review the efficacy of the containment measures in place as well the impact of the easing of the restrictions that had been put in place immediately when the pandemic broke out in Kenya.

In August and September, the government lifted some of the containment measures such as local and foreign travel, reopening of bars and restaurants which had remained closed since March, resumption of religious services and political rallies and relaxed regulations on funeral and marriage ceremonies.

Curfew hours

In September, a night curfew from 9pm was varied to start at 11pm and run to 4am instead of 5am. This was to remain in place for 60 days.

Governors are now pushing the government to review the curfew hours to start from 7pm to 5am, as had been the case when the containment measures were first imposed in March.

The county chiefs are also demanding that the national government supplies all learning institutions with free face masks and fund construction of water points.

“The final decision will rest with the President. But we have played our role by putting all the necessary facts on his desk,” one of the officials who attended the meeting disclosed.

CoG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya while confirming the virtual meeting, maintained that governors are insisting on the need for the closure of bars and eateries, as the best way to control the situation.

“Everything now lies in the hands of the President who will make the final decision.

But as governors, we have unanimously called for the closure of social joints, revision of curfew hours and total ban on all gatherings, particularly political rallies,” Oparanya said.

Medical experts have cited the lifting of containment measures in August and September as the main cause of the rising new infections and deaths related to Covid-19.

Living recklessly

In the last one week, the country has witnessed a sharp increase in new infections, with a high of 18 per cent recorded on Saturday, 15 per cent on Sunday and 14.2 per cent on Monday.

The experts believe a majority of Kenyans have since August, disregarded health protocols and are living recklessly.

“Many people are no longer wearing masks, washing their hands and keeping social distance in crowded places. There is so much indiscipline,” Dr Githinji Gitahi, the Amref Health Africa Group CEO says.

On Monday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, in his daily briefing, gave a hint of the government’s intention to take some drastic measures today.

 “We need to rethink some of the measures that we have taken; we need to think about what to escalate and what to de-escalate.

It is going to call for sacrifices once again if we are going to save lives. We cannot afford this trend of losing 100 lives in one week as a result of Covid-19,” Kagwe warned.

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