Kenya remains wary as Covid-19 cases surge

A policeman inspects the identification and travel papers of a man looking to cross the border between the Nairobi Metropolitan area and Limuru in Limuru on May 05, 2020. PHOTO | KABIR DHANJI | AFP

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe kept citizens guessing on the prospects of easing a nearly three-month lockdown that has led to the loss of thousands of jobs and cost billions in economic losses.

President Kenyatta was on June 6 expected to announce some form of ease in a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew and containment measures that have stopped movement of people in and out of Kenya’s two biggest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa.

The president, while extending the curfew and lockdown two weeks ago, strongly hinted at planned gradual re-opening of some sectors of the economy.

However, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe pointed to a sharp increase in new infections as a strong disincentive for lifting of the lockdown.

“The fight against Covid-19 is not yet over since it is firmly rooted within our communities, with the spread being in the villages, estates, and homes,” said Mr Kagwe in one of his weekly briefings last week.

Kenya has now reported 2,474 Covid-19 positive cases, the highest among EAC member states, and 79 deaths.

The deadly virus has infected 6.7 million people globally, out of whom nearly 400,000 have died.

Kenya, like other countries, fears that re-opening could trigger another round of infections.

Weary of the lockdown, many Kenyans have in recent weeks dropped their guard and gone back to near normal ways despite the containment measures.

Kenya’s acting Director General of Health Patrick Amoth says the government is exploring the possibility of home-based care and community-based facilities that the government will be launching soon to decongest and save health care facilities from being overwhelmed.

“Remember, the majority of our cases are asymptomatic, so it makes no business sense to manage these people in a hospital facility,” he said, adding that this has worked before, during the early days of HIV infections, where low, middle-income countries were able to work out on interventions of home-based care with good success rates.

President Kenyatta has directed stakeholders in agriculture, education, manufacturing, and tourism to collate views and put in place measures to re-open the sectors to near normalcy.

There are plans to change the school calendar, with proposals to have the schools re-open in September.