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Heavy security as government implements lockdown in Old Town

A section of empty Old Town where shops and other businesses are closed following the lockdown of the area. Photo by KNA.
Traders at Mackinnon Market in Old Town pondering the next move following the closure of the market on Thursday May 7, 2020. Photo by Mohamed Hassan/KNA.

The  government has deployed heavy security to seal off all entries into Old Town in Mombasa County as the 15 day lockdown of the historical site took effect on Wednesday evening.

A spot check by KNA on Thursday found presence of security personnel in all entry and exit points after the government last night announced the lockdown of the Old Town and Eastleigh area in Nairobi to control further spread of Covid-19 cases.

The  Old Town which is a tourist attraction site had by Wednesday recorded 57 positive cases of Covid-19 making it the highest in Mombasa County, which has a total of 202 infections.

The  lockdown of the Old Town which now becomes one of the hotspots of coronavirus in the country saw the closure of the famous Mackinnon Market in Markiti area and several other shops and malls.

At  Mackinon Market, traders pleaded without success with the security personnel to be allowed to remove their goods, saying some of them were perishable.

“Some of us don’t live in Old Town, but we have stalls in the market and it’s only fair to be allowed to conduct our business which is the only source of income,” said Mohamed Salim.

Salim said before the announcement of the lockdown, traders through their Market Association had implemented all the regulations put in place by the Ministry of Health.

The areas that are under lockdown, include Mji wa Kale, Mlango wa Papa, Kuze, Makadara, Kibokoni and Baghani.

Making the announcement on Wednesday, the Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe said the lockdown of Old Town and Eastleigh was necessary considering the surge in coronavirus cases in the two areas.

Kagwe said during this period, the residents are allowed to go about their business, but within their boundaries, adding that the government will use the opportunity to conduct more mass testing in the two areas.

Mombasa county government has been forced to halt the mass testing drive in Old Town following hostility from area residents.

The County Chief Health Officer, Ms Aisha Abubakar said the exercise was halted after days of standoff with area residents apparently angered by Governor Hassan Joho’s recent remarks that they would be forced to undergo the testing.

Abubakar  says for the past three days the exercise was done at the old town, only 197 people presented themselves for testing out of a targeted 28,000 population.

In a show of defiance, angry residents have been barricading roads making it difficult for medical personnel and ambulances to access the area.

Meanwhile, the government said the lockdown of the two areas was not a punishment but part of the measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Mombasa County Commissioner (CC), Gilbert Kitiyo said the rapidly increased cases of Covid-19 in Old Town were alarming, thus it was necessary to put in place measures to curb further spread of the virus.

However, Kitiyo asked area residents not panic as they would be allowed to access basic services during the two weeks of the lockdown.

By  Mohamed Hassan

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