Schools remain closed as curfew hours reviewed
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
Hopes that Kenyan schools would reopen fully before end of the year were dashed yesterday, when President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that classes resume in January in a raft of new measures, aimed at containing the second wave of coronavirus.
He, however, ordered that the examination classes that reopened several weeks ago, proceed with learning in readiness for the national tests set for early next year.
Addressing the nation after the sixth Extraordinary Session of the National and County Governments Summit on Covid-19, the President heightened health safety measures, including suspension of political gatherings albeit with a caveat, extension of curfew hours and the mandatory wearing of face masks.
Bars, restaurants and other social amenities open to the public will have to close by 9pm while curfew hours have been revised from 11pm to dawn to between 10pm and 4am.
“We are now staring at a second wave of the pandemic and I urge all Kenyans to strictly follow regulations issued by the Ministry of Health. We must take these measures seriously,” President Uhuru said.
On the day the President underscored the importance of personal safety and responsibility in the Covid-19 fight, 1, 494 people tested positive for the virus.
This is the highest 24-hour count since the virus was first detected in the country in March.
President Kenyatta, who issued a raft of measures to tame the soaring cases of the virus, asked legislators and the national government officials to jointly work together, to ensure that all learning institutions are protected from the disease when learning resumes in January, next year.
“To foster the State’s preparedness towards the reopening of all other classes in our learning institutions, I urge MPs to engage their respective NG-CDF boards with a view to finding ways to augment the existing interventions that are geared towards reopening.
I urge them to make investments that focus on additional handwashing points, face masks, general sanitation and physical distancing of students and teachers,” Uhuru said.
Politicians, who had embarked on a series of campaign activities to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report unveiled on October 21 or oppose it, were stopped in their tracks after Uhuru banned political rallies until January.
He, however, seemed to create a window for the politicians to continue with the Building Bridges Initiative campaigns by allowing Town Hall meetings but with strict adherence to the Ministry of Health Covid-19 protocols.
The revised countrywide curfew was extended for the next 60 days. In September, the President had varied the night curfew start time from the initial 9pm to 11 pm.
Governors through their chairman, Wycliffe Oparanya, had requested the government to review the curfew to start from 9pm till 4am.
The President, who said he took the drastic move after Covid-19 cases surged following the easing of measures 38 days ago, also directed the scaling down of government operations.
Public employees aged 58 years and above or those that are “immune-compromised” will work from home.
In an illustration of the toughening enforcement, the President ordered public institutions not to offer services to people not wearing masks, saying his actions were motivated by the fact that since he eased the protocols on September 17, the cases had risen alarmingly.
He urged private institutions to also commit to the ‘No mask, No service’ initiative.
Also, the President directed the Ministry of Interior to co-ordinate a special Covid-19 enforcement unit countrywide in collaboration with county governments.
He also said that in future, the national government will work with specific counties to enforce local containment measures in case of a spike in a region.
Uhuru said when he decided to re-open the country, the positivity rate had fallen from 13 per cent in June, and seven per cent in July, to a low of four per cent in September while Covid bed occupancy had gone down by 60 per cent.
The curve had flattened to five per cent positivity rate recommended by the World Health Organisation.
“But 38 days later, we have experienced a reversal. If Covid bed occupancy had gone down by 60 per cent, giving us comfort to reopen in September, the occupancy has now gone up by 140 per cent during the 38 days of easing Covid measures.
Positivity rate has also shot up from four per cent in September when we reopened, to an average of 16 per cent in October. This is four times what the rate was in September,” Uhuru said.
“These figures suggest a correlation between stringent measures and a drop in infection rates.
They suggest that in order to heal the country in the long run, we have to make some sacrifices in the short-run.”
The President called out politicians for being the weakest link in the fight against the disease, saying they had thrown the Ministry of Health protocols out of the window.
“As leaders we have failed because of the way we have been behaving in these meetings as if there is no Covid.
We don’t wear masks and have been mobilising people. That is why I am telling leaders to lead from the front, and we will take actions against those who will not follow the measures regardless of their status because the life of Kenyans is important,” he said.
Governors had earlier pushed for the reintroduction of the containment measures imposed when the disease first broke out in the country in March, warning that the county health facilities were overstretched and could not contain the second wave of infections.
“We shall be asking that we re-examine the easing of restrictions and re-strategise on the containment measures in the wake of the emerging new increased infections and fatalities.
We are heading to breaking point because as it is things are raging out of control,” he told the summit.