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Kenyans ignore guidelines as virus cases near 15,000 mark

Thursday July 23 2020
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Traders and buyers at Muthurwa Market, Nairobi on July 22, 2020. Kenyans seem have thrown caution to the wind with regard to Covid-19 control measures. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NATION TEAM

Kenyans seem have thrown caution to the wind with regard to Covid-19 control measures.

Reckless behaviour cost Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and Kasipul MP Ong’ondo Were Sh15,000 in fines.

Infections have soared, nearing the 15,000 mark, yet Kenyans don’t wash their hands or observe social distancing.

Police officers who have been patrolling public places, sometimes caning those violating coronavirus containment measures, appear tired.

Some are in fact profiting from or violating the rules they were enforcing just recently.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

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It is business as usual at markets, bars, lodgings, sex dens and bus terminuses in Nairobi, the country’s coronavirus epicentre with more than 8,000 cases.

Matatu operators and their passengers at Railways, Machakos Country Bus, Tea Room, Nyamakima, Ngara and other terminuses do not wear face masks, with some wearing them under the chin or on their forehead.

“Where will I get time to sanitise a client? At whose expense? How can I keep social distance?” a commercial sex worker on Park Road asked the Nation.

“I will die of hunger if I remain at home. If coronavirus will kill me as I eke out a living, so be it!”

UNLICENSED BARS

Just opposite Guru Nanak Hospital, unlicensed bars operate in the full glare of police officers.

Nairobi Regional Commissioner Wilson Njega says authorities are aware of the laxity but throw the ball in the residents’ court.

“The health guidelines are being broken but the President made it clear that the responsibility of containing the disease lies with the individual,” Mr Njega said.

Arrests and court appearances, he added, are secondary in battling the pandemic.

In Migori, a county with more than 215 cases, residents break Covid-19 safety regulations with impunity, with passengers stuffed in matatus and taxis.

Markets teem with crowds of traders and buyers. The most notorious are Wath Ong’er and Mukuro.

POLICE CHECKPOINT

“Locally made face masks are available but we rarely put them on. I only use it when approaching a police checkpoint,” Mr Joseph Onyango, a trader, said.

Drivers of overloaded matatus on the Migori-Kisii road bribe police officers to pass.

Funeral ceremonies in Nyanza have witnessed huge crowds. Last weekend, thousands thronged the burial of Ohangla musician Lady Maureen in Kopanga village, Suna. Police officers watched helplessly as men, women and children without face masks mingled freely.

Migori Health executive Isca Oluoch is yet to come to terms with the public display of impunity.

CRISIS LOOMS

“We stare at a crisis if locals continue taking things for granted. For a high-risk county like ours, a relapse can be devastating,” he said.

The Nation found traders going about their business without masks in Bondo, Ugunja, Ukwala, Usenge, Sega, Ndori, Siaya and Akala in Siaya County.

Revellers in Kisii County lock themselves in bars while boda bodas operate without masks.

Officials in Vihiga – a county with nine coronavirus cases – suspended market days but Luanda secretary Martin Indeku yesterday said traders have returned to the largest trading outlet in the densely populated small county.

HANDSHAKES AND HUGS

In Kakamega, where 13 cases have been reported, handshakes and hugs are back, especially at the town’s main bus terminus.

In Homa Bay town, donated water tanks have run dry.

Homa Bay Giants Traders Association chairman Godfrey Onduso summarised the situation: “Nobody is taking the responsibility of filling the tanks or buying soap.”

Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o blames locals for disobeying social distancing and other guidelines.

In Nakuru, restaurants that usually serve as stopovers for buses and matatus could become virus incubators.

Hotel traffic has been high since President Uhuru Kenyatta eased the cessation of movement restrictions.

Youths crowd movie shops and miraa-chewing places in Maralal, Samburu County. Locals borrow used masks when entering banks.


Reported by Bernadine Mutanu, Mwangi Muiruri, Benson Amadala, Elizabeth Ojina, Ruth Mbula, Dickens Wasonga, Shaban Makokha, George Odiwuor, Vitalis Kimutai, Ian Byron, Geoffrey Ondieki, Eric Matara, Waikwa Maina, John Njoroge, Macharia Mwangi and Richard Maosi.

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