Kenya avoids full lockdown in 13 counties amid Covid-19 surge

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital

A nurse prepares a Covid-19 vaccine dose for administration at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu County on March 9, 2021. PHOTO | ONDARI ONGEGA | NMG

The State on Thursday failed to impose total lockdown in 13 counties in western Kenya amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in the region.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said movement in and out of the affected counties is only discouraged except for essential and emergency services.

The new measures took effect midnight and come months after the country imposed a five-week ban on movement in and out of a cluster of five counties including Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu, and Nakuru in a bid to curb a spike in coronavirus infections.

Lack of travel curbs in and out of Western counties means that airlines and bus operators are free to enter and exit the counties of Busia, Vihiga, Kisii, Nyamira, Kakamega, Bungoma, Kericho, Bomet, Trans Nzoia, Kisumu, Siaya, Homa-Bay and Migori.

“Except for essential and emergency services, movement between the hotspot Zone and the rest of the country is strongly discouraged, “said Mr Kagwe in the statement on Thursday.

The stiff measures come in the wake of a spike in Covid-19 infections as daily positivity rates—ratio of positive case against total tests-- in the affected counties rose to 21 percent against a national average of 9 percent amid a third wave of the pandemic.

The Covid-19 “hotspot zone” saw infections in the counties over the past 14 days account for over 60 per cent of the national case load. Mr Kagwe also suspended for a period of 30 days all forms of physical congressional worship (churches, mosques, temples and shrines) in the hotspot counties and lengthened curfew hours to start from 7pm to 4am.

Curfew hours across other parts of the country remain 10 pm to 4 am. All employers including the public and private sector, government offices, businesses and companies in the Hotspot Zone are advised to allow employees to work from home, with the exception of employees working in critical or essential services.

All funerals and interment ceremonies within the Hotspot Zone shall be conducted within 72 hours of confirmation of death. Night Vigils and overnight processions prior to funerals are prohibited within the Hotspot Zone until further notice.

“All Kenyans, are reminded not to let their guard down, and they should avoid unnecessary movements and gatherings, employ physical distancing, observe proper hand hygiene, and observe the proper and consistent use of facemasks,” he said.

Mr Kagwe also prohibited all public gatherings and in-person meetings of whatever nature within the Hotspot Zone, including house parties and sporting activities.

Night Vigils and overnight processions prior to funerals are also prohibited within the Hotspot Zone until further notice.