Kenya: COVID-19 - Kenyans Both Worried and Relieved After Kenyatta Lifts Movement Ban

(file photo).

Mixed reactions have followed President Uhuru Kenyatta's announcement of an end to the cessation of movement into and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera counties.

Whereas a majority of citizens support the move, concerns have been raised about the repercussions of free movement amid the fight against the coronavirus.

Some feel that easing the partial lockdown in hotspot counties will further increase the number of cases in the country, whose total rose to 8,067 with 181 more infections as announced on Monday.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen expressed his concerns on Twitter, saying that lifting the order was a big mistake.

"I really hope I am wrong but lifting [the order] will multiply the infections 10 times. I am really worried about our older folks in the countryside [sic]," he wrote..


Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua welcomed the directive, saying the economy badly needs to reopen.

"Retaining the curfew is necessary and is what Governors advise. However, we will need to enforce, without fear or favour, health regulations so that we do not see a Covid-19 spike," he tweeted.

In Murang'a, Governor Mwangi wa Iria has placed a red alert for the coronavirus, given the county serves as a point of entry from the Nairobi metropolitan area.

He ordered that all county ambulances be placed on standby and all the 300 Covid-19 beds in the county be readied in case of a spike in the number of cases.

"The public health department will be very strict in enforcing the guidelines issued to keep the viral attack at ba. We are going to partner with police to ensure maximum compliance to battle the expected high risk of opening up Nairobi's interaction with Muranga," he said.


With the restrictions lifted, increased travel from cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa to the rural areas is expected.

Residents of Uasin Gishu expressed concern that the free movement is likely to expose the elderly to the virus.

"We are worried that many of our relatives who stay in Nairobi and Mombasa are likely to start transporting the virus to rural areas," said resident Kipkorir Ng'etich.

Mr Ng'etich, also the Executive Director for the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, said if the government values the lives of rural Kenyans, it must urban dwellers before they are allowed to travel.

People living in other parts of Western and Nyanza regions are also fearful about a spike in the number of cases of the deadly virus.

Masinde Primary School head teacher Celestine Owiti said that the move was ill -advised as it will negate all of the country's gains since the partial lockdown was first announced.

"We have been smoking out those who sneak into Siaya to protect our people from being exposed. Without jobs and means of survival, those in the cities are likely to troop back to the villages so there will be an explosion of cases," she said.

In Migori, County Heath Executive Iscah Oluoch said that while the department has put in place containment measures, residents' attitudes are worrying yet personal responsibility is key in containing further spread of the virus.

However, traders in Eldoret town and Kiranyaga hailed the move, saying it will boost the dwindling economy as they have suffered for long.

"The announcement will contribute significantly to the revival of the economy which was on the verge of collapsing. We pray that Kenyans will obey the measures put in place for our economy to be revived fully," said Pamela Jebet, a trader in Eldoret.


In Nakuru, a section of church leaders said the guidelines on reopening churches were discriminatory while others said it was as good as telling them to remain at home.

Rev Dr Ben Otube of Halloha Community said the measures were unfair and impractical.

"It is unfair for President Kenyatta to allow churches only one hour when he can call a meeting of more than 300 people and while market places remain congested," he said.

But members of the clergy in Meru County welcomed the directive, albeit with conditions, with Bishop Kirimi Buria of Kerith Churches noting that more engagements are needed on the conditions set for worshippers.

Even as Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) chair Sheikh Abubakar Bin hailed the move, he criticised the President for limiting the age of worshipers.

He noted that a majority of people who frequent places of worship are older than 65 so they will be denied the opportunity to worship in mosques and churches.

He also took issue with the President's decision to bar Muslims from washing their hands and legs before entering mosques.

"This is part of worship. Denying us that culture is the same as denying us the opportunity to perform worship rituals," he said

However, Catholic faithful Juliet Kanyi hailed the move to reopen churches, terming the outlined guidelines workable.

"It is now upon church leaders to adhere to guidelines in order to be allowed to operate," she said.

Reports by Sarah Nanjala, Macharia Mwangi, Joseph Openda, Waikwa Maina, Steve Njuguna, Geoffrey Ondieki, Mwangi Muiruri, George Munene, David Muchui, Titus Ominde, Barnabas Bii, Tom Matoke, Florah Koech, Sammy Lutta, Oscar Kaikai, Onyango K'Onyango, Dickens Wasonga, Shaban Makokha, Elizabeth Ojina, Derrick Luvega, Ian Byron and George Odiwuor

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