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Coronavirus: Uhuru shuts borders, closes schools

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses journalists at Harambee House in Nairobi on March 15,2020. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL 

The government has banned the entry of travellers from coronavirus-hit countries, closed schools indefinitely and encouraged work from home after two additional cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the two that tested positive are at the Kenyatta National Hospital isolation ward and are among the 27 that came into contact with the first confirmed patient.

This even as the Judiciary announced that it was scaling down its activities in the wake of the confirmation of the deadly viral disease in the country.

Mr Kenyatta said in efforts to contain the spread of the virus, only Kenyan citizens and foreigners with a valid residence permit will be allowed to enter the country, provided they proceed on self-quarantine or to a government-designated quarantine facilities.

"This will take effect within the next 48 hours for any passenger who may be en route and will remain in effect for the next 30 days or as varied by the national emergency response committee," he told journalists on Sunday.

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The disease which spreads through droplets from coughs and sneezes has infected affected 156 countries so far and claimed over 5000 lives globally.

The directive is expected to negatively impact airlines, the tourism sector and cause supplies slowdowns for traders. The fear of being in crowds is expected to further hit businesses.

The International Monetary Fund reckons that about one-third of the economic losses from the disease will be direct costs -from loss of life, workplace closures, and quarantines.

The remaining two-thirds will be indirect, reflecting a retrenchment in consumer confidence and business behaviour and a tightening in financial markets.

President Kenyatta further directed that learning be suspended in all learning institutions with immediate effect for primary and secondary schools.

Boarding school administrators have been ordered to ensure that students are home by Wednesday while universities and tertiary institutions should ensure they close by Friday.

"Where possible government offices, businesses and companies are encouraged to allow employees to work from home except employees working in critical or essential services," he said.

Justice, Chief Justice David Maraga said activities in courts will be scaled down for two weeks starting today (Monday).

Among the raft of measures is that prisoners and remandees will not be presented to the court, while all appeals, hearings and mentions in criminal and civil cases in all courts have been suspended with immediate effect.

"With regard to new arrests, all cases except serious ones will be dealt with at the police stations in accordance with guidelines to be issued by the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai," added Justice Maraga.

The move is likely to affect courts, which is struggling with case backlog due to lack of judges. In a report released during the state of the Judiciary in January, Justice Maraga pointed out that an average of 400,000 cases are filed annually while courts can dispose of about 300,000 cases a year. The caseload currently stands at 569,859 cases.

President Kenyatta urged Kenyans to use of cashless transactions such as mobile money and credit cards to cut the risks of contracting the disease.

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