Frustrated Kenyans revert to old habits

Monday, July 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Hawkers outside Ambassadeur Hotel in Nairobi wearing masks indecently. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

Reuben Mwambingu and George Kebaso

Even as the number of coronavirus soars, fatigued Kenyans seem to have let down their guard resorting to a carefree life.

 In many places around the country, health measures remain a formality and perhaps a gate pass to offices and other important places like shopping malls and banking halls. 

Many Kenyans no longer follow the social distancing rules nor are they washing their hands regularly.

Except for Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) plying the more urbanised parts of the city  where passengers and crew members pretend to be extra-vigilant about social distancing, probably just to fob-off the hawkeyed traffic police, the rest is completely the opposite.

People gather in markets, bus stops and elevators like nothing has happened.

In some town estates, beats of loud music emanating from night clubs ooze an atmosphere of rave parties especially during the weekends when youths gather for house parties that are defined by hazy smokes of bhang, alcohol and orgies. And they do this with little regard to social distancing.


It is a common sight to find people wearing face masks on their chins instead of covering their mouths and nose.

These masks are hawked on the streets where buyers are allowed to test if they fit before buying.

 But medical experts are now warning of the possibility of a new wave of Covid-19 infections predominantly in places such as the Port City of Mombasa in case the restrictions are relaxed today.

According to experts, despite putting up high-end measures that put the county ahead in terms of preparedness, Mombasa is currently struggling with Covid-19 case loads because it is a “port of entry” and some of the imported cases landed directly in the city.

County Director of Public Health Dr Salma Swaleh Mohammed says the county, which recorded 1,753 cases as of Thursday, has been badly hit because the virus was imported early via the Port of Mombasa and the Moi International Airport before the lockdown.

Back from Sudan

“This is the port of entry and most cases were imported through the airport as many international flights landed here directly.

Up to now we still have the truckers ferrying cargo via the Port and that’s why we are seeing cases going up by the day.

The cases are likely to go high once we open,” explained Dr Swaleh, adding that with several sprawling slum establishments, the community infections have continued to rise.

For instance, Swaleh confirmed that 15 out of 80 students who were flown back from Sudan have tested positive and were being isolated at the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) treatment and isolation centre.

“We did the tests on Sunday morning after they came in on Saturday and those who tested positive are being isolated at TUM for the safety of other students and the community at large.

They will remain there until 10 days when they will be tested again. The rest are in our quarantine centres where we will retest them after seven days and release them only when we are sure they are safe to go home,” she said.

 A spot check by People Daily yesterday in major parts of Nairobi, East Africa’s biggest commercial and diplomatic hub found out that a general negligence has set in.

At public places; markets, transport outlets, commercial premises and even in public and corporate institutions, glaringly, the social distancing protocols announced in March are loosening.

“If you look around, you will see people not wearing their face masks as required and congregating as if life has gone back to normal,” a concerned city businessman pointed out. Indeed we could see Kenyans casually engaging with each other at various places.

Important personal care commodities such as sanitisers, have dried up in Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) which thousands of commuters use daily to get to places of work and back home.

“It’s expensive to buy the sanitisers daily yet what we are making is not even enough to service the vehicles and pay our matatu crew,” John, a manager of a transport Sacco company said requesting the publication not to reveal his identity and that of the company for fear of victimisation.

In some bus stages, a dry bottle of liquid soap hung down the only half empty 20-litre water bucket that’s supposed to serve a fleet of over 20 buses, and asked why it did not have water, a tout answered.

“Watu hawataki kunawa mikono, tukiwambia kuna maji na sabuni, hao husema wako na sanitisers kwa mfuko, ama wamenawa kutoka kwa maofisi (we have provided our commuters with water and soap, but they are reluctant to use it preferring to use their own sanitisers).”

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