Kenya’s curfew locks down nation in fight against COVID-19
Kenya went into a sudden standstill on Friday night as the government implemented dusk to dawn curfew to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The curfew, announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday, took effect from Friday at 7 p.m., rendering towns and villages across the east African nation 'empty' as citizens stayed indoors.
In the capital Nairobi, businesses were closed and the streets and roads that normally teem with humanity and traffic gridlocks remained deserted.
Only the police could be seen patrolling the roads, some walking on foot while others in vehicles.
Different police units ensured the curfew was observed, among them the general service unit, administration police and crime detective officers.
The officers mounted dozens of roadblocks across the city and nation to ensure every one complied with the curfew.
It was a complete lockdown in Nairobi central business district, with the indefinite curfew that would be ending at 5 a.m. every day having been a total success on its first day.
Away from the city center, in the residential areas, things were not any different. Police officers in groups of three to seven tightened on-foot patrols, arresting anyone who had defied the dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The Interior Ministry had allowed 20 groups of people, who offer essential services to operate beyond the curfew hours.
These include journalists and other media workers, doctors and nurses and telecommunication workers.
However, these people were expected to identify themselves, maintain social distancing and hygiene, which include sanitizing themselves.
"Why have you defied the curfew?" a police officer wearing a face mask asked us at a roadblock in Syokimau, South of Nairobi, before we identified ourselves as media workers.
He then checked if we had hand sanitizers to ensure we maintained hygiene before allowing us to proceed with our journey.
A majority of Kenyans supported the curfew, welcoming it noting that it is necessary if it will help curb the disease. However, some critics noted that police were using it to brutalize citizens.
"I support the curfew because some people are stubborn and they don't care about social distancing and staying at home as advised by the government. I support anything that would help us stop COVID-19 so that life returns to normal," said Monica Makau, a businesswoman in Kitengela, south of Nairobi.
David Makali, a media commentator, said the curfew would help check citizens who were continuing with business as usual, despite efforts to curb the disease.
Most Kenyans, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe observed on Friday, were not following government directives including social distancing, going about their businesses as if there was no crisis.
"The curfew intends to achieve two things beyond fighting COVID-19 spread. First is showing people that the government is in charge and they must follow order and second, the country is in a crisis therefore these are not ordinary times thus people must change habits," said Ernest Manuyo, a business lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi.
Manuyo noted that the curfew would help lock down the country, curtailing people who were continuing with night social activities thus risking the spread of novel coronavirus.
"The Chinese did it and theirs was a complete lockdown and it worked. China showed the world how to fight the disease. Kenya and other countries in the world are following in its footsteps, we should overcome the disease through such measures," he said. (Xinhua)