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TO OPEN, OR NOT TO OPEN?: Uhuru’s dilemma on easing COVID-19 restrictions

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President Uhuru Kenyatta is today expected to address the nation on the status of COVID-19 in the country.

Kenyans will be expecting the President to make a pronouncement on the current COVID-19 lockdown measures and whether he will be ending or extending the cessation of inter-county movements within Nairobi and Mombasa.

Four weeks ago, Kenyans had anticipated that Uhuru will lift the partial lockdown, but were hit with a shocker when he extended the strict measures for a further period of 30 days, in a bid to further curb the spread of COVID-19.

The government extended the nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew, albeit it was lessened to start at 9 pm and end at 4 am, as opposed to the previous one which was starting at 7 pm and ending at 5 am. This enabled Kenyans to have more working hours.

Uhuru also announced that the cessation of movement in Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera Counties will be extended by 30 days, insisting that it would have been insensitive to ease the strict containment measures at a time when the country was reporting a rising number of coronavirus cases.

President Uhuru’s catch 22 situation

The difficult decision to extend the COVID-19 containment protocols was met after serious consultation with health experts, in consideration of three irreducible minimums.

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i) In order for the country to open up, infections must be contained and the COVID-19 curve heading downwards. At that time, that was not the case. Unfortunately, the cases rose steeply in June, and so is the case in July. So far, the country has recorded total confirmed cases of 7,886.

ii) Healthcare systems must be prepared efficiently to take on patients in case of a surge in infections, again that was not the case then as our systems were not sufficient. The President threw the ball in county governments’ court when he said that he will only open up the country when each of the 47 counties had at least 300 beds that can be used as treatment centers for coronavirus patients. Reports indicate that only 23 out of the 47 counties have met this requirement.

iii) Are Kenyans prepared to take care of COVID-19 patients at home? Most Kenyans were not capable then, and are still not capable now, although the government has since launched the COVID-19 Home-based Care program.

The ban on all forms of gatherings was also extended by a further 30 days.

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