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Punish those who violate safety rules

Wednesday March 25 2020

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Two cases of high-profile individuals who defied coronavirus safety guidelines have brought to the fore the challenge of implementing the regulations. Despite express government directives, there are individuals, some highly placed and influential, who flagrantly breach the rules and expose many to the virus.

First was Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi, who had travelled from Germany but, instead of isolating himself as the rules decree when he came back, went right ahead to work in his office and also engage in public activities. As a deputy governor, he has a wide network of contacts and easily attracts crowds.

Second was a Catholic priest, Fr Richard Oduor, who had travelled from Italy and South Africa, countries with high infections, but, once back in Kenya, participated in several public activities, including presiding over a funeral in Ugunja, Siaya County. Priests are influential people and command great following wherever they go. He met and fraternised with many people.

The actions of the two have thrown the health emergency teams into a spin. Health authorities and security teams now have to track down tens of people who came into contact with them.

Yet accounts of their movements show they visited several places and engaged variously, making it difficult to trail all those they interacted with. That is the clearest signal yet that we are under serious threat of mass infections.

Just a few individuals are capable of fomenting a formidable crisis. And it is worse when such scenarios play out in the rural areas, where health facilities are few and far apart, testing is not easily accessible and emergency services lacking.


The converse is equally worrying. Public gatherings such as burials, weddings and meetings stand suspended. But the reality is that they continue to take place.


Most citizens are oblivious of the risks they expose themselves to when they participate in those activities. Worse, provincial administrators and security teams have failed to stop such gatherings.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe have repeatedly warned against flouting the safety regulations. But, obviously, such remain just in the air. It has not dawned on many that we are under terrible threat. Thus, it is imperative to take legal and drastic steps against violators.

With 25 confirmed cases, Kenya is entering a fatal threshold. Numbers are bound to soar unless drastic actions are taken. Already, international flights have been cancelled to cut inbound travellers and minimise infections. But the task at hand is to enforce regulations and deal with those who fail to obey them.