When social distancing makes no sense to middle-class youth

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Middle-class Kenyans park on Kiambu-Limuru-Ndumberi Road, recently, as they engaged in outdoor events. Photo/Courtesy

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

Middle-class citizens are dancing with death by continually defying the government’s directive on social distancing by holding outdoor events and house parties to kill boredom especially on weekends.

After the government closed all bars, among other measures to halt spread of coronavirus, the middle-class are flocking to wines and spirit shops and supermarkets to buy alcohol before heading to open spaces to conduct street parties in total disregard of behavioural protocols issued by the Ministry of Health on mass gatherings.

For instance, in clear cases of recklessness and risk-taking, which could escalate the spread of the deadly flu, youths with cash to spare for alcohol despite the harsh economic times have been holding parties in isolated areas in the outskirts of the Nairobi.

Observe directives

Such incidents have been reported in parts of Kiambu, Nairobi and Kajiado counties where groups of 20 people and above have been holding street parties during the day, to ensure participants return home before curfew hours start.

 Some owners of bars and hotels with accommodation have also turned some of the rooms to “party areas” where they are allowing people with common interests to drink alcohol from the rooms while other party goers and are hosting parties in open fields in the estates.

 Yesterday, police communication director Charles Owino warned that those who will be found parting in groups, will not only be arrested but will also be taken to compulsory quarantine.

“We are asking members of the public to assist us with the information about those people who are holding these parties.

We will move in fast and we will not arrest and take them to the police station but we shall take them for forcible quarantine because you cannot tell who is sick,” Owino told People Daily.

Retail wines and spirits outlets have been a flurry of activities as Kenyans stock up on alcohol and a spot-check by the People Daily revealed that the owners have not been observing the set directives.

Shoppers have been crowding the outlets and owners keen to make a kill from high sales occasioned by the closure of the bars, appear unmoved despite exposing themselves too, to the risk of contracting the disease.

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday said locking down the entire nation remains a card on the table should Kenyans continue defying set behavioural protocols.

Cost us

“We do not want to get to a point whereby we shall say what some other countries are saying that people should not leave their homes, because if we do so, what will they and their children eat?” he posed.

On Sunday evening, police arrested 13 people, among them two medics and a magistrate who were found taking alcohol in a hotel contrary to the government’s directives.

The suspects, according to Murang’a county police commander Josphat Kinyua, were reported to have locked themselves up in the hotel near Murang’a town.

“I am shocked that the people who should be on the front line in educating the public on the precautionary measures are the ones caught on the wrong,” he said.

Yesterday, Nairobi police boss Phillip Ndolo said there are instances where police have been alerted about parties which are being held despite warnings from the government, notably a birthday party in Garden Estate and a night party in a residential house in South B.

However, Ndolo said they have not been able to arrest anybody because police were informed long after the parties or the participants got wind of pending raids and managed to escape.

 Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe recently said Kenyans are indisciplined after most of them defied the set protocols, forcing the government to announce more extreme measures.

“Kenyans are very indisciplined and it will cost us...” he said recently.

For instance, this past weekend, according to lawyer Wahome Thuku, a group of merrymakers camped at an isolated area in Kitengela, which previously hosted a club.

“They were really having a happy moment. Not the ignorant type. No. It’s the middle-class.

The guys in casual fitting shirts and jeans, nice sports shoes and a line of cars parked at a distance,” Thuku, a former journalist, said. 

 The previous weekend, hundreds of motorists camped at Kiawaroga and Karirana tea plantation along the Kiambu-Ndumberi-Limuru Road, where they are reported to have engaged in a drinking spree before returning to their respective homes before the curfew.

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