They waited patiently for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement to lift the restrictions in Mombasa with anxiety written all over their faces.
But when the Head of State lifted the lockdown in Old Town, the residents turned to God, praising him for the “miracle”. Others celebrated while thanking Mr Kenyatta for “setting them free”.
“We have suffered enough. Freedom at last. We were stressed to the core; no jobs, no food and a foreign disease which was surreal. We now need to go back to our lives because the disease is among us,” said Ramadhan Said, a resident.
But the interim vice chairman of the Old Town Covid-19 response team Jalab Ashraf urged the residents to continue observing the Ministry of Health directives including wearing of face masks.
“There are some massive and positive opportunities from this lockdown, a silver lining. Since the lockdown, our youth have been engaging in empowerment projects especially cleaning the environment, they are no longer sitting idle in the streets,” Dr Ashraf.
He said the youth will be empowered to engage in different projects.
In April, President Kenyatta imposed a lockdown on Old Town and Eastleigh in Nairobi due to a spike in Covid-19 infections.
Mombasa, especially Old Town, was also leading with the highest number of elderly dying at home, raising more concerns about cases that go unnoticed.
Mrs Nargis Shee, a trader, lamented over loss of businesses due to the lockdown.
“Businesses were shut down due to the lockdown. We have three months’ rent areas. How will we pay the landlords? We want help from the government,” said Ms Shee.
Another resident, Mrs Zulfar Abdhallah, narrated how youth and women suffered due to the lockdown.
“Our economy has collapsed. Mr Kenyatta, I know you don’t know but we are really suffering. It has been three months since I held cash in my hands. We beseech you, we need help especially in the rent areas. Tenants are suffering,” she cried out.
On Saturday, Mr Kenyatta lifted the lockdown in Old Town and Eastleigh, effective June 7.
“What's next after lifting of lockdown? I urge you my fellow residents – please let’s embrace the new normal and accept it until we suppress the disease,” said businessman Said Mabruok who has embarked on sensitising the residents on how to curb the disease.
Mr Mabrouk joined the United Front, a lobby group in the county, to sensitise the residents on the pandemic.
Dr Faiz Shee, a lecturer at Pwani University, urged the residents to start discussing the new normal.
“This disease is real and we have survival stories. We need to start discussions how to live past the pandemic. We need to be apolitical. Let’s not wait for politicians to come and help us. Let’s empower ourselves, pull resources and soldier on,” Dr Shee said.
Old Town Chief Ahmed Abdhulrazak said due to the lockdown, sanitation has improved in the area.
“Hygiene has improved but let’s work together and keep the disease at bay especially protecting our elderly. The disease is real and it's dangerous. Let's sensitise our people,” he said.
A counselling psychologist, Ms Jamila Mohammed, said the lockdown was not a punishment, adding that it helped in flattening the curve in Old Town.
“I know life has changed and there's anxiety but this is a new normal. Let's change our cultures,” she added.