Lamu County has banned swimming in the Indian Ocean.
The county’s security department has promised to arrest parents whose children shall be found swimming in the ocean as the devolved unit intensifies the war against Covid-19.
Speaking during a County Covid-19 Taskforce meeting at the Kenya Revenue Authority hall in Lamu Town on Thursday, County Commissioner, Irungu Macharia said swimming contravenes the existing regulations, especially social distancing and gatherings aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Macharia said most of the swimmers do not observe the one metre social distancing, a situation which puts them at risks of contracting Covid-19.
The administrator said children found loitering around the Lamu Island streets or swimming in the Indian Ocean, when the country and the world is battling Coronavirus, will be arrested.
In March this year, shortly after the first case of Covid-19 was announced in the country, the government directed the closure of all public beaches at the Coast to curb the spread of the virus.
Mr Macharia said his office will not sit back to watch anybody flout the government’s directives on Covid-19 prevention.
He said there is need for residents to stay at home and adhere to any other directive by the government to curb the spread of the virus.
“We’re alert to ensure people observe all directives by the government to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Beginning this week, we will be arresting people without face masks in public places. We will also arrest the parents whose children are found to be swimming on the shores of the Indian Ocean across Lamu. Swimming breaches social distancing. People don’t also wear face masks while swimming. Most of the children we’ve spotted swimming always do so in groups. The situation puts them at risk of contracting Covid-19. People should stay at home,” said Mr Macharia.
Mr Macharia’s sentiments have received mixed reactions from locals, particularly the elders who have in recent days been quoted encouraging residents across the county to swim in the salty Indian Ocean waters. They claimed that it might help avert Covid-19 infection.
Mr Mohamed Maulana opposed the government’s plan to arrest people swimming in the ocean.
“I don’t agree with the county commissioner’s plan to arrest our children and even us because we’re swimming. He should understand that since ancient times, swimming in Lamu is considered crucial.
We believe that saline water from the ocean can kill all manner of viruses and bacteria as well as treating many ailments,” said Mr Maulana.
Mr Salim Ahmed, a resident at Jua Kali in Lamu said they have been observing the social distancing as they swim.
“If they [government] want us to wear face masks even during swimming, we’re ready to obey the rule. But stopping people from swimming because of coronavirus is unwarranted,” said Mr Ahmed.
A section of the residents has however supported Mr Macharia’s plan to arrest the swimmers, insisting that people should respect the existing directives to curb the spread of the virus.
Mr Guyo Abdi said most swimmers do not observe the social distancing rule.
“I have been seeing tens of children swimming in groups, particularly at the Lamu Kenya Ports Authority jetty. This is risky. You should remember that social gatherings or crowding is discouraged during this period of Covid-19. If swimming breaches the law on Covid-19, why not stopped altogether? We welcome the move,” said Mr Abdi.
Lamu has not recorded any case of coronavirus since the first case was reported in the country in March.