Uhuru's dilemma as pressure mounts over Covid-19 restrictions

Sources say the President will partly reopen Kenya today

In Summary
  • Health systems expert Dr Njagi Kumantha advises President to reopen Nairobi and Mombasa
  • The country reported 309 more  Covid-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the number to 7,886.
President Uhuru Kenyatta gives the fifth Presidential address on the Coronavirus pandemic at State House, Nairobi, Saturday, 25th April 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta gives the fifth Presidential address on the Coronavirus pandemic at State House, Nairobi, Saturday, 25th April 2020.
Image: PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing an unenviable dilemma over mounting pressure to lift the Covid-19 restrictions on Monday even as infections rise across the country.

The country reported 309 more  Covid-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the number to 7,886.

Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman said one more patient succumbed bringing the number of fatalities to 160.


Total number of tests stand at 189,263 samples.

President Uhuru is set to address the Nation on Monday at a time millions of Kenyans are hoping he will lift the restrictions that have almost tanked the economy.


However, there are indications that the healthcare system is slowly getting overwhelmed.

Prof Lukoye Atwoli, a psychiatrist at Moi University and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, says one doctor who has been attending to Covid-19 patients in a hospital in Nairobi told him they had filled almost all free wards with Covid-19 patients.

"Covid maternity ward full, Covid  ward for the severely ill (IDU) is full, Covid medical ward for the less symptomatic patients is full single ward rooms with Oxygen points filled with suspected/ confirmed Covid-19 cases," he wrote.

On Thursday, highly placed sources told the Star Uhuru will opt only for for a partial and a phased re-opening of the economy.

This could change as the pandemic appeared to be steadily spiking.


Dr Njagi Kumantha, an expert on health services management, said the current infections will increase until about 70 per cent of Kenyans have had an infection.

"The current measures are not meant to eradicate Covid-19, but to slow it down so that our health systems can cope with the seriously sick cases. Focus should now be on counties to increase capacity because the national government facilities are already overwhelmed,"Dr Njagi said

He said measures like the night curfew, restriction of movements, social distancing, hand washing and sanitising, wearing face masks, treatment and monitoring have been fairly successful in slowing the spread. 

Psychiatrist Dr Njagi Kumantha wants the economy reopened gradually.
EXPERT: Psychiatrist Dr Njagi Kumantha wants the economy reopened gradually.

"At the same time these containment measures have caused devastating side effects to the psycho-social and economic aspects of normal life. The biggest problem is the loss of earnings directly associated with restrictions on movements of people from counties to and fro from Nairobi cosmopolitan and Mombasa," said Dr Kumantha, also a psychiatrist.

"I humbly request the Head of State to reopen these two areas while maintaining the other measures."

However, governors asked President Uhuru to keep Nairobi and Mombasa closed until the curve is flattened.

“Counties with high numbers should not be forced to open without consideration due to the ability to cope. The curfew should be maintained with the current hours for as long as it takes to flatten the curve,” Council of Governors Chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya told Uhuru during the extra-ordinary session of the national and county governments coordinating summit held on Thursday, last week.  

He said that the national government has failed to remit revenue to the devolved units for months, which will make it hard for them to cope with the surging numbers.

“To-date the payments have not been effected and unfortunately healthcare workers have now issued a strike notice that starts next week,” Oparanya said.

Uhuru has previously hinted at lifting the restrictions imposed since March. However, on Saturday, he warned of worse times ahead for the country.

On June 29, the President told a forum on US-Africa trade convened by the Corporate Council on Africa that the government would lift the inter-county lockdown in a couple of days.

Once the lockdown would be lifted, Uhuru had said, the government would allow domestic flights.

“We are going to be starting the domestic flights and this is what we will use as a trial in the next couple of days. We are opening the inter-county lockdown," Uhuru said during the virtual forum.

Despite the hints, the surging numbers put the president in a catch-22 situation.

The country risks more infections and deaths if restrictions are lifted in totality.

On Sunday, Kenya's biggest private pathologists, Lancet Laboratories announced they were restricting tests to clear a backlog, except for urgent and critical samples.

"The move to restrict the PCR testing for Covid-19 at our laboratory is to allow our molecular laboratory team to catch- up with and clear a backlog that has accumulated in the PCR laboratory," Lancet CEO Dr Ahmed Kalebi announced.


Dr Richard Ayah, a public health specialist from University of Nairobi, emphasised the need to protect the vulnerable.

"The best way to make covid19 disappear is for each person to think about the next person, but especially if that persons is a neighbour or relative and then to make sure they do not spread the disease to them," Dr Ayah said.

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