Kenya intensifies crackdown on COVID-19 rules offenders as cases surge

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Scores of Kenyans have been arrested and businesses closed for flouting COVID-19 rules as the government intensifies crackdown against those ignoring measures to curb the spread of the disease.

Some of the offenders were found drinking in bars beyond stipulated curfew hours, others were found without masks while for businesses, operators were not adhering to social distancing rules or taking temperatures of customers.

For the businesses, the worst affected are bars, matatus and eateries, where operators had adopted “business as usual” mode. The crackdown follows President Uhuru Kenyatta’s order to police officers and county government officials on Nov. 4 to ensure citizens follow the rules following a surge in COVID-19 cases in a second wave of infections.

In Nairobi, over 100 small businesses, mainly eateries and bars, have been closed after failing to comply with the COVID-19 rules as some 1,000 people have been arrested across Kenya, some charged in court. On the streets of the capital, police officers, some in plain clothes, are ensuring everyone wears a mask properly. “Why are you wearing your mask below your chin?” a police officer asked a man stepping out of an eatery on Friday. He made frantic efforts to wear the gear properly before apologizing. On the roads, police officers are ensuring that only those who offer essential services move around past the 10 p.m. curfew hour. “Do you know you are flouting the law?” a police officer asked our driver at a roadblock in Kitengela on the south of Nairobi on Thursday at about 11 p.m.

After identifying ourselves as media workers, he checked inside the vehicle to ensure everyone had a mask and there was a sanitizer. This was a departure from the last two months when the officers relaxed vigilance against perpetrators, doing away with roadblocks. According to Hillary Mutyambai, Inspector-General of Police, those in breach of the public health measures face an instant cash fine of 20,000 shillings (about 185 U.S. dollars) while motorists found driving beyond 10 p.m. curfew time will have their licenses canceled.

Kenyans are happy with the enhanced enforcement, with many noting those who were flouting rules were putting everyone at risk.

“I am happy that the crackdown has seen everyone comply with the COVID-19 rules. This will help protect people like us in the taxi business who deal with tens of customers a day, some who don’t wear masks and you can’t tell them to do so,” said motorbike taxi rider David Kiarie Similarly, to help police deal with those who flout the rules, Kenyan are using social media to expose public service vehicles that are carrying excess passengers without adherence to social distance rules.

On Friday, the East African nation’s COVID-19 caseload rose to stand at 68,193, after 1,470 new cases were recorded, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said in a statement. Fatalities, on the other hand, stood at 1,228 after 25 people died as the second wave of the disease continued to hit the country.

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