Covid

Kelvin Mweu, a banker, lives in Athi River, south of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, and works in the city center.

He commutes to and from the suburb, some 30 km away from the city center daily, leaving in the morning and returning in the evening.

Thousands of other Kenyans who live in areas neighboring the capital, which are normally referred to as its “bedrooms”, because that is where the majority live as they work in Nairobi, follow a similar routine.

The interlinkage between the capital Nairobi and the neighboring areas has seen the bedrooms become the new COVID-19 hotspots as the infection spreads.

Nairobi, which has been the epicenter of the disease since its outbreak in Kenya in March, accounts for about 80 percent of the total 22,597 infections.

For months, the capital was followed by the coastal city of Mombasa, the second largest town in the east African nation.

But a rise in cases in Nairobi’s bedrooms namely Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado counties has seen Mombasa lose the second spot as infections in the three regions surge.

The regions are currently the new hotspots for the disease, according to the Ministry of Health.

On Monday, out of the 544 cases, Nairobi accounted for 412, Kiambu 27, Machakos 17 and Kajiado 17. Mombasa accounted for nine cases.

And on Sunday, of the 690 cases announced, Nairobi contributed 533, Kiambu 57 and Kajiado 28. Mombasa had only one case in the tally.

This has been the trend in the past weeks, with the health ministry asking residents in the capital’s “bedrooms” to enhance containment measures.

“Our proximity to Nairobi makes us vulnerable to the disease because our people commute daily in and out of the city,” said Kiambu governor James Nyoro, whose region has recorded 400 cases in eight days.

He further attributed the rise in cases to increased testing by health authorities.

But there is also the major issue of failure by a majority of citizens in the areas to strictly observe containment measures like wearing masks and social distancing.

A survey shows in Kitengela, one of the bedrooms of Nairobi, that a number of citizens were flouting health protocols.

At an open-air market in the suburb, located south of Nairobi, some traders on Monday shouted out prices of their wares, others used pre-recorded messages amplified on loudspeakers to catch the attention of customers.

The market was a sea of humanity, populated by not only the traders but also buyers, motorbike taxi riders and commuters.

Most of the people at the market had masks, but a majority wore them inappropriately and did not observe social distance, exposing themselves to the risk of spreading or contracting the disease.

“Some people are not taking the health measures seriously yet the disease is spreading fast here as it is doing in Nairobi. I blame it on carelessness or ignorance, this is costing us,” said David Kinuthia, a motorbike taxi rider.

Some public transport vehicles commonly known as matatus, which ply routes from the city centre to outskirts of Nairobi have been blamed for worsening the situation by flouting rules to enhance social distancing.

The rising cases in Nairobi and its bedrooms put the thousands who commute between the two regions at a higher risk of contracting the disease, which is causing concern among residents.

“If there is a time we need to stay at home, then this is it because one is at a higher risk of getting the disease as it spreads faster where we work and where we live,” said Mweu.

Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Health, noted on Monday that the failure to adhere to containment measures was to blame for the spike in cases around the country, especially in areas around Nairobi.

“We are seeing cases in Mombasa decline because people are adhering to set protocols. That is what we must do,” he said.

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