Lamu elders want open-air market closed to tame virus

They say it is against government directive on public gatherings

In Summary

• Mkunguni Square has been designed to hold a considerable number of people and is normally used for public gatherings and meetings. 

• Council has also criticised the county government and Public Health Office for failing to provide water and soap at the market. 


Elders want Mkunguni open-air market in Lamu town closed to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Lamu Council of Elders chairperson Sharif Salim said the market was too congested, making it ideal for the spread of the Covid-19. 

The elders say the state of the market flies in the face of the government’s directive to avoid public gatherings.

“When you are at the market, it’s like you are forcefully at a public gathering due to the congestion. The stalls are close and it’s impossible to pass without shoulders touching. It’s easy for someone with coronavirus to easily spread it to hundreds of people at once,” Salim said. 

The market has more than 200 traders hurdled in the small space after they were moved out of the municipal market last year to pave the way for expansion.

Mkunguni Square is normally used for public gatherings. 

The council of elders has also criticised the county government and the Public Health Office for failure to provide water and soap at the market. 

“In the other counties, the governments are taking the initiative and ensuring that water and soap are easily available. We need soap and water made available in markets and all public places so people can wash their hands. We are worried,” the chairman said.

Vice secretary-general Abubakar Shelali urged the county government to conduct awareness of coronavirus as many people still had no clue what it is and how to avoid it.

The number of confirmed coronavirus patients in the country has reached seven with tens of others quarantined.

“Look at the boat transport business – they don’t have soap and water for travellers. People here don’t cover their mouths when they sneeze. You ask around, the majority can’t even describe what they think coronavirus is. There is a need for awareness,” Shelali said.

Lamu Municipality chairperson Omar Famau said his office would soon make  necessary materials available to the traders to stay safe from the virus. 

He ruled out the closure of the market. “It won’t be wise to close the market."

Edited by R.Wamochie