Preventing movement into, out of Old Town easier said than done
Murimi Mutiga @murimimutiga
Mombasa’s Old Town, which was on Wednesday sealed off to curb the spread of coronavirus, is home to about 28,000.
The area comprises Mombasa sub-county, Mvita constituency, covering Mji wa Kale location, Makadara sub-location, with Mlango wa Papa, Indian Ocean, Makadara and Digo roads as its boundaries, north of Fort Jesus.
The cessation of movement into and out of the area which, was announced by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on Wednesday, caught many by surprise.
Many of the residents still do not believe the disease is real and argue the containment measure is a punishment for refusing to go for voluntary testing for Covid-19.
However, implementation of the containment measures could prove a tall order for the police to enforce and for residents to adhere to.
First, the area which covers an area of 72 hectares, has a myriad of exit and entry points, with buildings that are conveniently located opposite each other and separated by narrow streets. This could provide easy way for those who want to sneak out.
Already, dozens of residents are reported to have moved out before the cessation of movement order took effect.
Yesterday, tension was building at the crowded centuries-old settlement with police moving in to block those planning to enter or get out.
There are fears that youths could also stage a resistance if concerns of the residents are not addressed.
The area is known for knife-wielding gangs which have been terrorising people in Mombasa. Apart from the gangs, there is a huge number of drug addicts.
Reachout Trust Director Taib Abdulrahman says the centre serves 50 recovering drug addicts who now cannot access pain relief medication and treatment of addiction.
“We are asking the government to allow them access the medicine,” he said.
The area has an expansive sea front that will require a lot of surveillance to stop people from using boats to escape.
Residents could also face shortages in cash supply as there are no banks in the area. With many businesses like eateries, restaurants, markets closed, many may lose their livelihoods.
Mombasa county commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said those who have sought accomodation outside the area risk the lives of their hosts.
“If you have the disease, then you are going to infect your relatives, which is not fair,” said Kitiyo.