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City ‘curse’: Rural folk wary of returnees

Tuesday July 07 2020
BUS

A 14-seater matatu defies the Ministry of Health’s regulations by ferrying excess passengers on July 6, 2020. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NATION TEAM

A section of residents in Western and Nyanza have expressed fear that the region could be exposed to more coronavirus infections with the reopening of the economy.

They have urged the government to hold reopening plans until the curve has been flattened.

Amid the excitement of the relaxed measures, some county governments have expressed concerns about the attitude of locals, which may pose a serious threat of new community infections in the coming months.

In Siaya, where all the cases so far reported were imported from Mombasa, Nairobi and Kwale, residents have not been taking chances with ‘suspicious guests’, often alerting authorities whenever spotted.

PROTECT PEOPLE

Until Monday’s announcement, those who have sneaked out of the lockdown areas of Nairobi and Mombasa would immediately be identified and reported to authorities.  Many have ended up in quarantine facilities. This move had scared cunning city dwellers from setting foot in their rural homes.

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Celestine Owiti, 55, the Masinde primary school headteacher in Gem Sub-county, said lifting restrictions will negate all the gains the country has so far made.

“We have been smoking out those who sneak in to protect our people from being exposed to the virus because all the cases we have so far reported in Siaya are from outside the county,” she said.

“We have many people living in slums in the cities. These are some of the areas that have been reporting high cases. Without jobs, they will likely troop back to the villages. We will see an explosion of cases,” she cautioned.

HIGH CASES

Her sentiments are shared by many residents, who feel that the vulnerable, like the elderly in the villages, will be exposed to the virus. Siaya Police commander, Francis Kooli, told the Nation in a recent interview that the county’s rapid response team had activated surveillance systems, with specific target being those who reside in the sub-counties reporting high Covid-19 cases.

In Migori, County Heath Executive, Dr Iscah Oluoch, said while the department has put in place containment measures, the attitude of residents was worrying, adding  that individual responsibility was key in containing further spread of the virus, which has already affected 116 people in the county.

HEALTH RESTRICTIONS

“Our major challenge is handling county residents who take the precautionary measures lightly,” Dr Oluoch told the Nation in an interview. In Kakamega town, Mr Suleiman Sundukwe regretted that many Kenyans have ignored safeguard measures.

“Where there are no police officers, people behave normally without considering the health guidelines. Should the President open up the country, many people will die and many will be arrested for flouting the health restrictions,” observed Mr Sundukwe.

“Because the number is still going up, the President should have maintained the lockdown and enforce guidelines until everyone accepts and observes the restrictions before he opens up the economy,” he added.

RUNNING BATTLES

Mr Fadhil Eshikwekwe, a barber in Mumias town was, however, upbeat about the reopening, saying businesses have suffered.

In Kisumu, Ms Pamela Ogal, a resident of Buoye village, said: “We have to protect our lives since cases of Covid-19 are high in Nairobi and Mombasa. Nobody wants to be infected with Covid-19.”

In Homa Bay, many traders continue to disobey the health directives, often engaging in running battles with police.

Reported by Dickens Wasonga, Shabana Makokha, Elizabeth Ojina, Derrick Luvega, Ian Byron, and George Odiwuor

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