State mulls total lockdown of Nairobi, Mombasa cities

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi. Photo/File

 The government is considering more restrictions in Nairobi and Mombasa next week in a bid to contain the steady rise in the number of people infected by coronavirus, People Daily has established.

With confirmed cases rising to 296 yesterday and 14 deaths, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho disclosed that  the coronavirus emergency management team was discussing stricter measures to contain the spread of the virus that has already moved to the community transmission stage.

This stage is considered more challenging to contain by health experts because of the geographical spread which makes control and tracing complicated.

Kenya confirmed 15 new cases yesterday, seven of which were confirmed in Mombasa and six in Nairobi. Two were registered Mandera County.

Eleven of the new cases are Kenyans while four are foreign nationals. Some 545 people were tested in the last 24 hours.

“It will be an exercise in futility for us to continue with the ‘business-as-usual’ attitude when the infection rate is rising.

We are looking at various options, including a complete lockdown of Nairobi and Mombasa,” Kibicho told People Daily in a telephone interview.

Hot spots

The PS said the government was particularly concerned about the big number of people blatantly breaking rules, which include wearing face masks while in public places and social distancing. 

Others are a dawn-to-dusk curfew and ban on movement of people in and outside Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties.

Other than imposing a complete lockdown on the two major cities, the government is also considering identifying hot spot estates in Nairobi and Mombasa with a view to handing down stricter movement restrictions.

“We are mapping out the hot spot estates, where we are thinking of imposing a total lockdown so that we isolate them from areas where the situation is not bad,” he said.

Kibicho said restriction on movements in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale seems not to have worked as  many people have come up with various tricks to beat the system.

“If we continue behaving recklessly, as has been the case in the last two weeks, the government will have no option but ban all movement in the affected areas,” Kibicho warned.

In Nairobi, the government has mapped out Kilimani (six cases), Ruaka (six) Pipeline (five), Karen (four), South C (four), Kawangware (three), Tassia (two), Utawala (four), Kitisuru (two), Parklands (two), Buru Buru (two) and Kibera (two) as some of the worst affected.

Other estates in the city identified as hot spots are Donholm, Eastleigh, Hurlingham, Lavington, Runda, Ngara, Madaraka and Kasarani, which have so far recorded one case each.

In Mombasa, the government has identified Nyali, Bondeni, Mvita, Bamburi, Miritini, Maweni and Umoja as hot spots.

Food crisis

Yesterday, sources told us the government was grappling with the economic implications of locking down the city including a possible food crisis that may be brought about by the decision.

However, Kibicho downplayed the concerns, saying it was better for people to suffer for a short period than lose a big percentage of the population.

“Already the government is putting in place measures to cushion the less fortunate.

The government’s determination is to save lives. It is better for the economy to suffer consequences for a few days than lose many people,” he said.

Sources at the Interior ministry intimated that President Uhuru Kenyatta is likely to announce new stricter measures on Monday when the 21-day cessation of movement in the four hot spot counties comes to an end.

“What I know is that the government plans to extend the night curfew by 14 days while for Nairobi and Mombasa, it may impose either a complete lockdown or identify particular estates considered dangerous and close them down,” said the senior security officer who cannot be named discussing sensitive security matters.

Kibicho’s warning was reinforced by the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dr Mercy Mwangangi, who expressed concern over the widespread violation of rules set by the government.

“The spread of the virus is growing within our community and unless we change our lifestyles, we are all doomed,” Mwangangi warned during the daily media briefing.

28,000 deaths

She particularly warned the youth against defying government directives and holding parties.

“Even in these times, we still have cynical Kenyans who hold the view that this disease is not real. This is very disturbing particularly in light of our growing numbers of infected people,”  Mwangangi warned.

On Sunday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe warned that more than 28,000 people might die from Covid-19 in Kenya if people continue to disregard measures outlined by the government to curb the spread of the disease.

“This is not a time for cat and mouse games. People who are modelling for us are telling us is that the number of people who will die or not die in this country will depend purely on the level of discipline that we exhibit going forward,” the CS said.

“There are models that say that we could lose as many as 28,000 Kenyans as a result of this disease unless we start observing certain measures and ensure we do social distancing and other measures we have been told.”

His warning followed information that a group of fake mourners travelled to Homa Bay County from Nairobi where the driver tested positive for the virus. The CS said the group bought a coffin to enable them to pass through roadblocks when traveling out of the Nairobi Metropolitan area.

On the same day, a video of a group of drunk youth who used an ambulance to take them home after daylong partying went viral, attracting the wrath of Kenyans. The youth were later arrested and quarantined at their cost.

So far, the government has arrested 455 people for flouting various guidelines and consigned them at various quarantine centres.

More on National