Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has been given fresh powers to restrict movements in estates that are considered high-risk in the transmission of coronavirus in efforts to curb the spread of the infectious virus.
The powers are contained in newly-published regulations on prevention, control and suppression of Covid-19 which are aimed at restricting activities in estates considered hotspots.
Restrictions in such areas will be the first option of controlling the spread of the virus as opposed to widespread lock-downs of entire towns or counties.
The regulations also grant the CS power to unilaterally declare a private hospital, hotel, school or any other institution a facility for handling and treating coronavirus patients.
“The Cabinet Secretary may, by notice in the Gazette and in a newspaper with a wide circulation, declare any place to be an infected area, and thereupon regulate and/or prescribe such activities and conduct that may be carried out within the infected area where it is deemed necessary for preventing the spread of or for the eradication of Covid-19,” says the April 3 notice signed by Mr Kagwe himself.
“Any person who contravenes the directives issued under rule 12 (1) commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both”.
Kenya, which has reported 172 coronavirus cases, six deaths and seven recoveries, had already barred movement into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale. The restrictions for the coastal counties take effect from 7pm Wednesday.
The halting of movement in the four counties, which will apply for 21 days, tightens restrictions already in place to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Kenya Airports Authority said on Monday it was suspending domestic flights for 21 days at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and other local airports at the Coast.
Kenya Railways has also said it has suspended the daily SGR train service between Nairobi and Mombasa in line with Monday’s directives on limiting movement into and out of the four affected counties.
Majority of the Covidf-19 cases in Kenya have been reported in Nairobi and the country’s coastal strip, and the new restrictions on movement were intended to prevent the virus spreading to other parts of the country especially as Kenyans are set to mark Easter holidays this coming weekend. As a tradition, many Kenyans travel upcountry for the festivities.
Movement of food supplies and other cargo will continue but logistics companies have been given new guidelines on how this will be done to ensure public safety.
“The Cabinet Secretary may depending on the circumstances in an area, whether designated as an infected area or not, designate a private health facility, an educational institution, hotel or any other establishment as he may deem appropriate as a designated facility for purposes of handling and or treatment of COVID-19 patients,” say the new regulations.
In the some countries, sports facilities and social halls are being turned into makeshift hospitals to handle the rising number of coronavirus patients who have overwhelmed hospitals.
Locally, some counties like Tharaka Natha are preparing for such an eventuality, designating hospitals and other institutions that will exclusively handle coronavirus cases should the need arise.
The Ministry of Health recently warned that in the absence of drastic containment measures, the country will have at least 5,000 confirmed Covid-19 infections by mid this month rising to 10,000 by start of May unless action is taken.
About seven in every 10 Kenyans think that the government should enforce a complete lockdown, according to a survey by Infotrak Research and Consulting.