Kenya: Lake Region Faces Lockdown to Contain Covid-19 Spread

The government is mulling enhancing containment measures in the nine counties witnessing a spike in the transmission of Covid-19 in Western Kenya and Nyanza, including stopping all entry or exit in the affected areas.

The Nation is aware that some of the recommendations given to President Uhuru Kenyatta that will help to turn the tide include a cessation of movement into and out of the affected areas, increasing curfew hours, restaurants selling only take-away meals and shutting down bars.

The recommendations, which could be effected in the next few days, were given to the President by the National Security Advisory Committee and the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus.

Members of the two committees have, for the last few days, been deliberating on what can be done to turn the tide in the Lake region, where community transmission continues to grow significantly and is now threatening to go out of control.

The lake region is one of the most densely populated regions in the country, with a population of about 14 million, which is roughly 30 per cent of the entire population of Kenya.

Most affected counties

The counties bordering Lake Victoria currently account for at least 50 per cent of total infections, overtaking Nairobi and Mombasa, which have been the epicentres of Covid-19 infection since the pandemic arrived in Kenya in March last year.

Currently, the most affected counties are Kisumu, Kakamega, Siaya, Bungoma, Nyamira, Busia, Migori, Homa Bay and Kisii.

Ultimately, the final decision will be made by the President, who will address the nation on his decisions through Public Order number 4 of 2021. The date of this presidential address is, however, yet to be decided.

In March, the President shut down Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado and Nakuru counties to slow down a similar spike in the transmission of Covid-19. At the time, Kenya's Covid-19 positivity rate had jumped from two per cent in January to 22 per cent, with Nairobi accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the cases.

"The National Emergency Response Committee has been meeting regularly and by the end of the day we will have a position and we will consult closely amongst ourselves and the President," Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i told a closed-door meeting of regional and county commissioners yesterday.

"A decision will then be made on how we will enhance the containment measures. It is now becoming absolutely necessary that we enhance containment measures in the Nyanza counties and parts of Western Kenya," said the CS.

New Covid-19 hotspot

Last week, the Lake region recorded 1,320 new cases, with Kisumu taking the lead with 368 cases, followed closely by Siaya (197) and Busia (196). Homa Bay registered 167 new cases, Kericho (102), Kisii (100), Migori (44), Bomet (55), Kakamega (47), Vihiga (27) and Nyamira (17).

Kisumu has emerged as Kenya's new Covid-19 hotspot, overtaking Nairobi, which, due to its huge population, had naturally assumed this position since last year. The lake side city recently hosted Madaraka Day celebrations that are feared to have been a superspreader. Political leaders including the President, his deputy William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga also addressed large roadside crowds.

"It may lead to us introducing new measures to deal with movement and social activities, all which are intended to ensure that we manage the spread or the surge of Covid-19," said Dr Matiang'i yesterday.

"There is a need to provide enough resources such as oxygen, human resources for health, testing kits, pulse oxymeters, vaccines and PPE," said the chairman of the Lake Region Economic Bloc, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya on Monday.

"We should also have an online situation room that provides real-time information on resources availability, staffing, functional ICU bed space, oxygen (preferably available through dashboards for the governors of the LREB) in public and private facilities," he said.

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