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Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Brace for another lockdown if governors have their way on Friday

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya.

Kenyans should brace for a fresh lockdown if governors convince President Uhuru Kenyatta to reintroduce restrictions to combat the soaring Covid-19 infections.

Already, some of the county chiefs have indicated they will implore the President to re-impose the lockdown if the alarming pace of the pandemic continues.

The President has summoned the governors on Friday for the Fifth Extraordinary Session of the National and County Governments Co-ordination Summit.

There has been a sharp surge of coronavirus cases across the country since the restrictions were eased on July 6.

The meeting will review the virus containment measures and the impact of the phased restrictions.

Forty-four out of the 47 counties have reported Covid-19 cases. Only Baringo, West Pokot and Samburu have not confirmed any cases.

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) prefers the lockdown of coronavirus hotspot counties.

“In the event that the situation gets dire, individual county governments will have no choice but to, in consultation with President Uhuru Kenyatta, seek to lock down the affected counties to contain the rapid spread and protect lives.” Oparanya said recently.

On July 6, Uhuru lifted the ban of movement in and out of the Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera.

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga said the focus should be on hotspot counties, where the disease “must be contained.”

“We will have all the facts on the table on Friday during the meeting with the President. We have been caught between a hard place and a rock but we will strive to strike a balance,” he said.

Kahiga supported Oparanya's and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui's call for more restrictions in counties with rising cases of the disease.

“I support Oparanya and Kinyanjui.  We must decide whether to continue to allow people to walk in and out of counties, even when cases continue to rise,” he said.

Kinyanjui was opposed to the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions, warning that it would adversely affect counties with low Covid-19 infection rates.

“We must not allow short economic gains to overshadow the greater public health risks,” he said.

During the meeting with the President, governors are likely to press the re-imposition of restrictions after the Ministry of Health said Covid-19 patients will no longer be transferred to Nairobi.

The contagious disease is predicted to start peaking next month and counties have been asked to improve their capacity to accommodate case loads.

Kahiga said the rising numbers could be due to increased testing across the country.

His Machakos counterpart Alfred Mutua said the summit will  consider the impact of the fresh measures on the economy but tough decisions will have to be made.

“It will be a balancing act. The rising cases were expected but is the national government doing enough to combat the disease?” he asked.

Mutua said county governments should prepare for worst-case scenarios. “It is better to stay alive and suffer the economic consequences,” he added.

Kahiga told Citizen TV they will consider the impact of new restrictions on the economy but health will be prioritised. “We can revive the economy after the pandemic,” he said.

The summit will also assess the preparedness of counties and evaluate the overall national response and capacity to handle the pandemic.

Several countries have re-introduced lockdowns following a spike in cases after measures were eased.  On July 12 South Africa, the worst-hit country in Africa with over a quarter million infections, re-imposed the lockdown.

Kenya's tally was  13,771 as of Monday. The first case in the country was confirmed on March 13.

Nairobi had 7,744 cases as of Monday while Mombasa had 1,835 and Kiambu 769.

Over 246,000 tests have been carried out across the country with 238 deaths recorded and 5,600 recoveries.

On July 18, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe announced 688 infections, so far the highest in a single day.

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