On Friday March 6th, 2020 Kenyans received confirmation of the first case of COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus. The patient is a 27-year old Kenyan woman who had come to visit a male friend who lives in Rongai, Nairobi. The patient had taken a flight from Ohio in the US to Nairobi .She used a British Airways flight that landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).She then used a taxi to Rongai but later on used public transport on several occasions.
When the government officials announced the first confirmation they also announced that they had traced 27 people who had come into contact with the first patient. By March 15th the 27 people at the National Influenza Center had been tested and two more patients were confirmed.
In his speech on March 15th 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed that the three patient were moved into Kenyatta Hospital isolation facility. President Kenyatta also added that medical teams are closely monitoring the patients, who are in stable condition and responding well to treatment.
By 25th March a total of 25 patients were confirmed to have tested positive. Among the patients is the Gideon Saburi, Deputy Governor of Kilifi County who flew in from Germany and a catholic priest who flew in from Rome and had a stopover in South Africa.
While addressing the press CS Mutahi announced that Mr.Saburi is among those who will be charged for ignoring government’s directive for the mandatory 14 days of self-quarantine.
The government of Kenya had set up necessary containment and treatment protocols across the country. However, following the result of the two additional cases, the following additional protocols were announced:
The Government suspended travel for all persons coming into Kenya from any country with reported Coronavirus cases.
Only Kenyan Citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to enter the country provided they proceed on self-quarantine or to a government designated quarantine facility.
This directive was to take effect within the next 48 hours to cater for any passengers who may have been enroute. It will then remain in effect for the next 30 days (from March 15th 2020) or as varied by the National Emergency Response Committee.
People who have come into Kenya in the last 14 days (from March 1st 2020 ) must self-quarantine. If any person exhibits symptoms such as cough, or fever, they should present themselves to the nearest health facility for testing.
Learning was suspended in all education institutions with immediate effect. Consequently, and to facilitate a phased approach, primary and secondary day schools suspended operations from March 16th 2020.
For those in boarding schools, the school administration is to ensure that students are home by Wednesday, 18th March 2020 while Universities and Tertiary Institutions are to close by Friday, 20th March 2020.
Where possible, government offices, businesses and companies are encouraged to allow employees to work from home, with the exception of employees working in critical or essential services.
In order to avoid the risk of transmission through physical handling of money, the government encourages the use of cashless transactions such as mobile money and credit cards. The president appealed to mobile operators and banks to take the situation into consideration , and reduce the cost of transactions during this period.
Avoid crowded areas
In line with the directive to avoid crowded places, citizens are encouraged to:
- Avoid congregating including places of worship
- Minimize attendance to social gatherings including weddings and funerals and restrict the same to immediate family members
- Avoid crowded places including shopping malls and entertainment premises
- Minimize congestion in public transport wherever possible
- Limitation of visitors to hospitalised patients in both public and private hospitals
Hospitals and shopping malls are encouraged to provide soap, water and hand sanitizers and ensure that all their premises are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
Safaricom responded to the presidents appeal on March 16th 2020. They announced through their Chief Executive Officer, Michael Joseph that they had waived fees for M-pesa transactions below Sh1000. This decision was made during a meeting between the Payment Service Providers (PSPs) ,Central Bank of Kenya and Commercial Banks.
“In the meeting, it was agreed that all person-to-person transactions below Sh1,000 shall be free. This means that from Tuesday morning, M-PESA users will be able to send any amount below Sh1,000 for free over the next 90 (ninety) days,” said Michael Joseph, Chief Executive Officer Safaricom.
“To support this, and in particular small and micro business enterprises (SMEs), Central Bank of Kenya has also approved the increase of daily M-PESA transaction limits from the current Sh70,000 to Sh150,000. Kenyans will also be able to transact up to Sh300,000 up from the current limit of Sh140,000, and hold up to Sh300,000 in their M-PESA wallets.”
The current tariff for mobile money transaction for Ksh 70, 000 will apply for transactions up to Ksh 150,000. The PSPs and Commercial Banks will eliminate charges for transfer between mobile money wallets and bank accounts.
County governments act
Counties have put in place measures to control the spread of the virus. However, Kakamega County has taken it further by announcing the closure all mortuaries for a period of 30 days. This announcement was made through Governor Wycliff Oparanya on March 16th 2020.
As a result, anyone who dies within the county is to be buried on the same day to avoid gathering of mourners. Oparanya further asked any residents who had the bodies of the loved ones in the government morgue to urgently collect them free of charge.
Nairobi County has also announced that those with relatives in government mortuaries should collect them for free between 25th March 2020 and 2nd April.
Kenya Ferry Service which manages the vessels that transports people in the Likoni Channel connecting the mainland and Mombasa Island, also announced new measures. From 25th March 2020, everyone using the ferry must wear a mask or improvise with something that covers their mouth and nose.
They have also insisted that all passengers from either side of the channel will be required to wash their hands with soap and water before embarking on their trip. The vessels move over 300,000 people and 6,000 cars daily across the channel.
Several employers across the country have also allowed some of their employees to work from home.
The following are the hotlines to call in case you want to report anything concerning corona virus in Kenya.
0800721316 (toll free)
Mombasa County hotline numbers
Note: This article was last edited on 25th March 2020. More details will be added as they happen.
By Carolyne Oyugi