Tuesday marked the 14th day since auditor Victoria Selima, who lives on the east of Nairobi, Kenyan capital, stayed at home.
With her two children, a boy and a girl, Selima have strictly followed the government advice of people to stay at home in a bid to curb the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Her employer helped her further by allowing her to work from home. “I have ventured out of my compound countable times and for not more than an hour since the government announced the first case of COVID-19,” she said on Tuesday. Similarly, her children have not left the compound to go out and play with their friends. “We all stay indoors. I keep them busy with online classes; at first, it was hard but they are now used to,” she told Xinhua in Nairobi. Her current lifestyle depicts that of thousands of other Kenyans in the capital Nairobi and other parts of the east African nation.
Citizens have not only had to adapt to new lifestyles but also do away with some activities to curb the spread of the deadly virus. Behaviors in residential estates, supermarkets, in public transport vehicles and at workplaces, among others, have totally changed. “Sunday was our family day out. I would go to church in the morning and then take the children to the supermarket for shopping. It’s now two weeks since we visited the two places as a family,” Selima said, adding since the COVID-19 outbreak in Kenya, she has visited the supermarket once, alone and on a weekday to avoid congestion.
On the streets, at business premises and workplaces, Kenyans have now gotten used to two habits, washing hands and keeping social distancing.”I sanitize my hands almost every 30 minutes and ensure I keep social distancing, including in the office and in public transport vehicles,” said journalist Benjamin Mugo.Every lunch hour, he would go with friends to a particular restaurant in the city center for traditional food. “These days I order on phone or go to the staff canteen to pick packed lunch and come and eat in the office because the government only allows hotels to sell takeaway food,” he said, noting it is the first time he is doing such a thing since he started working in Nairobi years ago.
Mugo, however, is happy that the disease has curbed congestion in public transport vehicles. Initially, the vehicles known as matatus, would overload but they are now carrying half the number of passengers they used to enable commuters to maintain social distance following a government order. “It is a good thing, I pray that this continues even after the disease ends even though operators have doubled the fare,” he said. One of the biggest casualties of the coronavirus outbreak in Kenya is handshakes, which have since disappeared as citizens maintain hygiene as advised by the government.
Most Kenyans still do not believe that they cannot greet each other, but they are adjusting to the new environment, with many stopping handshakes mid-air when they remember what they are to do.At supermarkets, grocery stores, ATM machines and banks, Kenyans are learning how to queue a meter apart to enforce social distancing. “This disease has really changed our lives. We now have to stand far apart from each other like this. I hope it ends soon,” a man complained loudly at an ATM point in Kitengela, south of Nairobi, on Tuesday.However, the biggest game-changer in Kenyan lives is the closure of entertainment spots, which used to be frequented by thousands, and the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the government starting March 27.
Every citizen must now plan their activities to ensure that 7 p.m. finds them at home. For fishmonger Catherine Akoth, who does her business in Kitengela, she starts her work by 3 p.m. and closes by 6 p.m. to beat the curfew. “Initially, I would start my business at 5 p.m. and sell the fish until 10 p.m. but I have to adjust. I have no choice despite this reducing my sales,” she said, her adjustment mirroring those of thousands of other small traders. Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, said Kenyans have no choice but to support the government by changing their habits and mode of operations to beat the disease. “It is for our own good and for the benefit of the country. The good thing is that the disease will end someday and we will resume our normal lives,” he said.