It’s all up to you, Uhuru tells Kenyans as he eases orders
What President Uhuru Kenyatta termed a national call to civic responsibility turned out to be a double-edged sword.
The President yesterday kick-started the partial but conditional re-opening of an economy battered by effects of the coronavirus pandemic, delicately ceding some freedoms to Kenyans but with a passionate warning that taming the disease now depends on their own individual behaviour.
Surrounded by a high-powered team comprising top government officials and the clergy, Uhuru cut the image of a man with a huge burden on his shoulders with which he wanted to not only share with the rest of the country but also explain the consequences.
His message was clear: The virus has not been contained but economic activity must continue.
And it is the individual behaviour of Kenyans that will prevent the further spread of the disease and influence his future actions — including the possibility of rescinding his decision if the Covid-19 cases increase rapidly.
“In the next 21 days, we shall study patterns of interactions and the spread of the disease.
Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to the lock-down at zero-option,” warned the President during his speech at the steps of Harambee House.
The biggest and perhaps toughest decision was lifting the cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera counties, which bear the highest load of Covid-19 cases.
The President, however, extended the countrywide 9pm-4am curfew for another 30 days, dashing hopes of businesses that operate into the night.
The lifting of cessation of movement was particularly delicate following warning by medical experts of a possible surge of Covid-19 cases in rural areas which host the low-immune elderly people due to an expected mass movement of travellers from Nairobi and Mombasa. And this where Uhuru made his most emphatic call.
“Let us not lie to each other that the disease is not real.
Those who want to use this opportunity to travel home. It is okay. But remember you are visiting the elderly who are most vulnerable to the disease.
The government will not take responsibility if you infect them. If there is a problem you know that you will be responsible,” he warned.
The President’s fear revolves around low preparedness by counties which have considerably weak health systems.
As one of his ‘irreducible minimums” to open the economy, Uhuru had asked the country’s 47 counties to set up at least 300 isolation beds in preparedness for coronavirus patients.
However, there has been concern that most counties have not met the threshold.
Uhuru warned that he will swiftly close the economy again if Kenyans’behaviour leads to an upsurge of infections.
Yesterday, the Health ministry announced 181 new cases, 127 recoveries and four more deaths.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the additional infections had raised the Covid-19 caseload to 8,067 and the total number of deaths to 164.
Nairobi once against accounted for the highest number of cases with 134 followed by Kiambu with 19, Mombasa (nine) and Kajiado (six).
To tame a possible upsurge of infections, Uhuru advised against non-essential travel to the countryside. Among other measures, the President announced the re-opening of places of worship but with services restricted to one hour and attended by not more than 100 people.
But Sunday Schools and Madrassas shall remain suspended until further notice, and in-person worship shall not include congregants under the age of 13 years or above the age of 58 years or persons with underlying medical conditions.
The President directed Education CS George Magoha to give guidelines on the possible re-opening of schools by today.
Religious leaders will also give guidelines on how places of worship shall operate.
In what could be a dampener for politicians, the President extended by 30 days, the ban on political and social gatherings of any nature.
Equally, revellers were disappointed when he extended the restriction of the operation of bars to “take-away” only, and the restrictions on the number of persons who can attend weddings and funerals for a further 30 days.
According to government protocols, a funeral service should be attended by only 15 people and last only one hour.
Impossible to police
Yesterday, Uhuru indicated it was impossible for the government to police every Kenyan in order to observe health protocols to fight the disease such as washing of hands, sanitisation, wearing of masks in public places and social distancing.
“This is, therefore, a national call to civic responsibility. And this is not a demand placed on the self by the State. It is not a demand that can be enforced. It is a duty you pay to your fellow countrymen for co-existing with them,” he said.
And it will not be a walk in the park for public transporters intending to ferry Kenyans to their rural homes.
The operators will require mandatory certificates from the ministry of Health. Moreover, the President lifted the ban on air travel with local flights set to resume on Wednesday next week while international ones will kick off on August 1 with strict adherence to global anti- corona virus protocols. All travellers into the county will have to be tested.
It is noteworthy that the much-criticised decision by the Transport ministry to allow flights into the country from Covid-hit countries led to the importation of the virus before community transmission started.
It was also a sigh of relief for dealers in second-hand clothes (Mitumba) when the President tasked the Trade ministry to establish protocols for the resumption of the importation and sale of used clothes.
Reacting to recent reports revealing a disturbing increase in cases of violence against women and a rise in teenage pregnancies during the Covid-19 restrictions, the President directed the National Crime Research Centre to investigate the matter.
The centre was also directed to prepare an advisory to security agencies on remedial action within 30 days and initiate immediate prosecution of violators.