Tough new rules to check virus ahead of Easter


President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE PHOTO | NMG

President Uhuru Kenyatta Monday ordered a halt to all movement in and out of the Nairobi metropolitan area, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale, dealing a further blow to the economies of the four counties that account for a third of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The order banning all entry into and exit out of the four counties marks a tightening of measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak as Kenyans wait to mark the Easter weekend later in the week.

Traditionally, Kenyans travel upcountry in large numbers during the Easter holidays and the new measures are meant to ensure that people stay where they are to stem the spread of the virus.

Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale are leading in coronavirus cases, which rose to 158 including six deaths, with four individuals declared fully recovered.

The four counties account for 29.1 percent of Kenya’s GDP. Nairobi that accounts for 21.7 percent of the country’s output, and influences economic activities in neighbouring counties of Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado and even beyond.

New tougher restriction on movements in these counties is likely to further hurt Kenya’s economic output, which analysts led by management consultants McKinsey & Company expects to shrink by five percent in what will represent a $10 billion (Sh1 trillion) loss if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.

On the other hand, however, the measures are expected to slow down the spread of the deadly virus that has infected over 1.2 million globally and killed over 71,000, including close to 10,000 in the US.

The restrictions imposed yesterday are meant to ensure that counties which are yet to report cases of the disease remain uninfected.

Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado have a combined GDP of 10.2 percent, and they feed the city with goods like food, water, sand, building bricks, cement as well as workers and services.

“The cessation of movement within the Nairobi metropolitan area shall be for an initial containment period of 21 days with effect from 7pm Monday the 6th of April 2020, that is today,” President Kenyatta said in a televised address.

“This virus is unforgiving and its rate of growth, if not arrested, is exponential.”
Other areas of the country where movement has been restricted include the coastal region of Mombasa and the neighbouring counties of Kilifi and Kwale, where tourism is the bedrock of the their economies. Tourism has already been hit by a reduction in numbers arising from the suspension of international travel.

The new measures means that the regions can also now not attract local tourists, a move cemented by the suspension of the SGR train service between Nairobi and Mombasa.

“There shall be cessation of all movement by road, rail or air in and out of...the Nairobi metropolitan areas and...the counties of Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa,” the President said.

He also said that vehicles, scooters, bicycles and motorbikes are not allowed to move in and out of the four counties. This is meant to prevent those seeking to enter or leave the restricted area using covert means. He, however, said that vehicles ferrying food materials or other essential products like medical equipment and drugs would be exempted from the restrictions.

Vehicles ferrying food products are only allowed to have one driver and such designated persons must have a letter to that effect.

Individuals who breach the order face a fine of up to Sh20,000 or a jail term of up to six month or both in line with fresh public health regulations.

The restrictions are expected to lead to a dip in the GDP. McKinsey & Company says the dip will be the product of disruption to supply chain for key inputs in machinery and chemicals, a hit on tourism and exports and reductions in household and business spending.