The government has confirmed eight more cases of coronavirus bringing the total number of people infected to 15.
Out of the 8 cases, five are Kenyans while three are foreign nationals, a Mexican and two from French.
Giving an update on the country situation on Sunday evening, Health Cabinet Secretary(CS), Mutahi Kagwe said all the eight who were aged between 20 and 57 came from abroad via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) between March 4th and 17th.
“All patients are stable except one who is in Msambweni at the Coast and the government is organizing to airlift to Nairobi,” he said adding that the government was following up on over 300 contacts from the eight new cases.
Since last Friday, the CS noted that our actions continued to be guided by trends and evidence from other countries that showed the number of infected increase dramatically in the second week.
“These coming two weeks as mentioned earlier, are therefore critical for this country as I said last week. Even as we seek to control the outbreak, we are emphasizing on high level of hygiene and also social distancing,” he said.
The CS noted that despite last week measures by the government to contain the virus, it was a disappointment that majority of people have continued to ignore the said measures and were behaving as if it was business as usual.
He said even citizens and those with resident permits and had been allowed to enter into the country but have not been observing the quarantine protocol would be forcefully quarantined and later charged.
“This will apply to a senior government official in Kilifi who defied and refused to self-quarantine and is now in a facility. Once he is officially treated and released, he will be charged in a court of law according to the Public Health Act together with others who also refused to quarantine,” Kagwe warned.
“I said last week that this disease is not a joke. Kenyans need to treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves by adjusting their lifestyles because if we continue like this, the disease is going to treat us abnormally,” he said.
Because of this, Kagwe has now said additional measures would have to be enforced and that starting on Wednesday 25th Midnight, all international flights will be suspended except for the cargo flights.
Those people who are coming into the country before the 25th of March will also have to be quarantined in a government facility at their own expense.
He added that Kenyans who were currently in foreign countries who would not have come back by Wednesday would have to adhere to guidelines in the countries that they were in.
He specifically mentioned that the young people and students travelling from the US and UK who should observe the rules strictly especially when it comes to coming into close contact with older people as evidence and statistics have shown that the elderly were at higher risk.
Effective midnight Sunday, Kagwe also confirmed that all bars would remain closed until further notice while restaurants would remain open but only offer take away services in order to secure the social distance requirement.
All public vehicles have also been asked to adhere to directive given on Friday by ensuring social distancing in their vehicles failure to which their respective licenses from their SACCOs would be revoked.
“The Inspector General of Police has been directed to enforce the directive,” he said, adding that noncompliance of individuals in religious organizations or in any other social gatherings as were issued on Friday 20th would also have to be adhered to.
“We are suspending all church, mosque, funeral and other social gatherings and for those attending funerals let it be attended by only immediate family,” the CS said, adding that individuals should desist from gathering in town, shopping centres and markets unnecessarily but stay at home.
The CS explained were people were getting sick because of contact, saying the out of the eight people who have been confirmed to have the virus, some were tourists who have even been visiting recreational centres and even hotels.
The Interior and Coordination Principal Secretary (PS), Dr. Karanja Kibicho directed the Regional Commissioners all the way to Assistant Chiefs to enforce the law when it comes to social distancing since it has been a war asking people to do it on their own volition.
“Moving forward, no churches, shrines or mosques will be opened. Bars will remain closed from today midnight and if found open, disciplinary action will be taken,” he said.
Kibicho added that government would also ensure that funerals were attended only by immediate family members who should not exceed 15 people and there would be no weddings, merry go rounds, birthday parties and disco matangas.
He said law enforcement officers would be held liable in case of laxity in this endeavour.
The Inspector General of Police (IG), Hilary Mutyambai directed the National Police Service to enforce the regulations set beginning with closure of bars by midnight and reining in matatus that failed to use sanitizers and observe the social distancing protocol by reducing of the number of passengers.
“Officers will not only assist the national government in ensuring the public gatherings are not held but also ensure that self-quarantine is observed. We will be able to follow up with those offenders after their medical recovery and taking them in court in conjunction with the office of the ODPP,” he said.
The Isiolo Governor, Dr. Mohammed Kuti said the counties would cooperate with the National government in enforcing the measures.
“We have already formed County Emergency Response Teams to domesticate and adapt the national coronavirus adaptation team,” he said.
Kuti said that the message is clear, and that all governors and leaders in counties should take the message to the people and ask them to stay at home to avoid undue contact.
He gave an example of countries such as Italy who have been overwhelmed by numbers of those infected just because of not following and adapting to the measures put.
“Italy cannot sustain the flow of patients and the deaths have become as high as 789 cases within the last 24 hours. Let this be a lesson and message for us to adapt and be able to take care of ourselves,” Kuti said.
Elsewhere, the Department of Health in Samburu County has been urged to supply water tanks to curb the spread of coronavirus in Lorora area with more than 250 households.
Speaking to KNA today in Maralal town, the county peace ambassador, Joseph Lekolua asked the CEC of health, Stephen Lekupe to ensure that all people in Lororas were safe from coronavirus by providing more water in the respective manyattas and naapus where wazees come together for discussion.
The peace ambassador also called on the people to wash their hands all the time to avoid the spread of the killer disease in the area and follow the national government rules by staying at home.
Kenya has so far confirmed 15 corona virus cases and the government is urging all people to quarantine themselves in their respective homes together with their families and follow the stipulated health guidelines like social distancing and hand washing.
On security, the peace ambassador called on the national and county government to ensure peace is maintained during this time of mass circumcision of boys in the county affecting more than 1, 000 boys.
By Wangari Ndirangu/Lelendu Petikas