Why Uhuru might extend Nairobi lockdown

Nairobi likely to continue being the epicentre of the epidemic in Kenya

In Summary

• On June 6, President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa for 30 days.

• Mombasa is also a Covid-19 hotspot, with 1,293 cases out of 4,797 nationally as of June 21. 

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe in one of his recent media briefings.
LEADING THE WAR ON COVID-19: Health CS Mutahi Kagwe in one of his recent media briefings.

The surge in Covid-19 cases in Nairobi is worrying and might lead to the extension of the cessation of movement into and out of the city. 

Officials fear a spike in other counties if the directive, which expires in the first week of July, is lifted. 

As of June 23, Nairobi had 2,424 cases, nearly half of the 4,952 cases countrywide.

"An extension of the lockdown of the city is very likely in July," said a member of the National Emergency Response Committee.

Mombasa also has a growing trend of Covid-19 cases, with 1,293 as of June 21. 

The cases are higher because the daily figures reported by the Ministry of Health are for samples collected two or three weeks. This is blamed on slow testing.

Global public health specialist Bernard Muia said if the curve will not go down, the government will have no justification to reopen the two cities next month. 

"We are in a catch-22 situation because the economy is also suffering. But if we adhere to the public health guidelines, then the government can partially reopen the economy," Dr Muia told the Star. 

He said Nairobi is likely to remain the epicentre of the epidemic in the country.

"Nairobi is 100 per cent urban, the population density means people live close to each other. Covid-19 being airborne you expect cases to be concentrated in urban areas." 

Dr Muia, who is a former Nairobi Health executive, also noted the capital city and Mombasa had high seeding rates. 

"Nairobi started with more cases and at first we didn't have serious public health response guidelines," he said. 

On June 6, President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa for 30 days.

The President said experts had warned that if the country rushes to reopen the economy, the virus will run down the health system.

“I wanted to reopen our economy but experts feel that a lot still needs to be done before we fully remove the restrictions,” he said.

Yesterday, the epidemiologist Mark Nanyingi raised concern that home-based care might wreak havoc in the city if not properly rolled out. 

He urged the public to stick to the health guidelines given by the Ministry of Health, noting there's a false assumption that Covid-19 is not a serious disease. 

"If people continue being nonchalant, health systems will be overwhelmed. 

"The disease has also not reached its peak. Sometimes we see fewer cases reported, but that's because of the pool of people tested. When you target high-risk groups, you will get high positivity," Dr  Nanyingi said.

Recently, ODM leader Raila Odinga hit out at those who defied the government’s directives on the disease, accusing them of doing a great disservice to the country.

The opposition chief pointed out that the majority of Kenyans had complied with the measures and that only a few flouted them.

He decried frequent gatherings at political meetings and funerals, which remained great impediments to the containment of the fast-spreading respiratory virus.

 “I wish to urge the few Kenyans who are refusing to listen to the advice by the government - they should wash hands with soap and sanitiser and stop overcrowding and attending crowded funeral services. They are doing a great disservice to this country,” Raila said in a recorded video message.

He spoke days after Kenyans expressed outrage at politicians defying social distancing rules as they held meetings with large crowds.


- mwaniki fm