It is back to square zero as Kenyans, who had been waiting for a lifting of the partial lockdown, quickly relapsed to disobeying the health guidelines issued by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite President Kenyatta warning people not to let down their guard by continuing to maintain social distance and hygiene, a spot check by the Nation Tuesday found it was back to business for most Kenyans.
The enforcement of guidelines like social distancing, including in restaurants and public transport service vehicles, was largely lacking, creating a fear that Kenya could be on the brink of witnessing a spike in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.
And although the risk of community mass transmission has now being multiplied because of the resumption of inter-county travel, police and public health officials kept off the streets as Kenyans flouted the guidelines.
A number of countries that were first to record Covid-19 cases and reopened their economies like China and South Korea witnessed second waves, meaning, the same could happen in Kenya too.
While health experts opposed the idea of reopening the economy when the number of Covid -19 cases was still rising steeply, political leaders and economists differed on the move the government had taken.
Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen strongly disagreed with the government’s move, saying, it will lead to more infections and deaths.
“I really hope I am wrong, but lifting cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa will multiply the infections 10 times. I am really worried about our older folks in the countryside. Anyway, what do I know?” he tweeted.
“I agree with President Uhuru [Kenyatta] on the removal of the cessation of movement. The economy needs this badly. Retaining the curfew is unnecessary, and is what governors advised. However, we will need to enforce without fear or favour, health regulations so that we do not see a Covid-19 spike,” said Machakos governor Alfred Mutua.
Meanwhile, 23 counties had not yet met the threshold set by government for reopening the economy by the time the announcement was made on Monday. This means that, should a spike in coronavirus infections move beyond Nairobi and Mombasa, the country could be plunged into a crisis.
This is because counties in the rural areas not only have the largest numbers of the elderly, who are vulnerable to the virus, but are also least prepared to fight a surge in infections.
And with the evident disregard of public health guidelines, Kenya could be in for tough times ahead.
But while the public defiance of the health guidelines had started weeks earlier as Kenyans shed their initial fear of the killer virus, the President’s announcement that he had reduced some of the restrictions meant to slow down the spread of the virus has worsened things.
In East Africa, only Tanzania, and now Kenya, have relaxed the rules.
Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia are still under some form of lockdown, while South Sudan, Burundi and Somalia have never quite come out to issue public guidelines on how they were fighting the disease.
But even as he succumbed to pressure due to a battered economy, President Kenyatta on Monday warned Kenyans that he will not hesitate to reimpose lockdowns should the numbers rise drastically.
“We must, therefore, exercise cautious optimism, and avoid reckless abandon. I believe that, although the path to recovery is rocky and uneven, it is navigable.
“In the next 21 days, we shall study patterns of interactions and the spread of the disease. Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to the lock-down at zero-option,” the President warned.
NO SOCIAL DISTANCING
A number of Kenyans, however, seemed to have either missed this part of the President’s speech or have just chosen to thrown caution to the wind.
In Nairobi, the social distancing rule continued to be flouted as many mingled and continued socialising.
Markets like Toi, Gikomba, Muthurwa, Dagoretti and Mutindwa continued with their normal operations. Stalls that had been operating at half capacity were teeming with clients as businesses strived to make up for the losses incurred during lockdown.