Police officers control traffic at a roadblock at Lukenya area in Athi River following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive that people should not travel in or out of Nairobi metropolitan area. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Current count in Kenya as of Thursday, April 9: 184 confirmed cases, 7 deaths, and 12 recovered. This is an increase in the last week of 74 confirmed cases, 4 deaths, and 13 recovered.

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When Deputy Governor of Kilifi County, Gideon Saburi, returned to Kenya from Germany, he signed a statement that he would self-quarantine himself for two weeks. He didn’t do this and moved around in the public. A few days later he was confirmed to be positive and was quarantined. During the time he moved about his county before becoming sick, he infected at least two other people and perhaps more. As a result Kilifi County is now one of the four hot spot counties in Kenya. He was attacked on social media for his irresponsibility. He apologized and asked for forgiveness. He recently recovered and freed from quarantine. He was immediately arrested and put in quarantine in jail. Some people in Kilifi have threatened “harm” against him. He faces up to ten years in prison.

While the media is full of necessary information on masks, ventilators, protective suits for health care workers, ICU units, and so on, the crucial underlying issue for success in defeating the virus will come from people understanding and obeying the various restrictions. This is the critical issue that is impossible to compute. If people obey as in Wuhan, Korea, Taiwan, and a few other places, Covid-19 will be defeated. If people do not obey the restrictions as in the US and some parts of Europe, the virus will thrive and spread. How will Kenyans react?

I am surprised at how quickly people here have adapted. I see people washing their hands when going into a store, people beginning to wear masks as is now being recommended and required, standing far apart in line at the check-out counter, ropes to keep people at a distance from the clerks at stores, end of shaking hands, and so on. The problem is that even if 90+% of the people do all these necessary changes, the few who do not do so like the deputy governor above will spread the virus.

Monday two weeks ago when there was only one death from Covid-19 in Kenya, the government imposed a countrywide curfew from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM. This took people by surprise. There was insufficient transport to get everyone rushing home at the same time to meet the deadline. The police responded, particularly in Mombasa, with beatings, tear gas, and over coercive measures. Three people were killed by the police including a 14 year old boy who was hit by a stray bullet while standing on the balcony of his house. This type of violence by the police is not unusual in Kenya, but what was significant was that the police officers involved were disciplined. Moreover President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mutahi Kagwe, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, condemned the violence by the police.

Those three deaths will not be recorded as Covid-19 deaths, but they certainly are due to Covid-19. This leads to the question of how many other unrelated deaths will occur due to Covid-19 taking priority, not only in heath facilities, but over other issues. For example, as Kenya has pulled back from its locust eradication campaign, a new cycle of locust infection in maturing. This may increase the locust swarms a hundred-fold or more, leading to hunger, malnutrition in children, and starvation.

In order to keep the virus from spreading upcountry, last Monday President Kenyatta announced that no one except essential services like food delivery will be able to enter or leave the four hot spot counties in Kenya. Three are on the coast including Kilifi County, while the fourth is metropolitan Nairobi which included not only Nairobi County but its nearby satellite towns in adjoining counties. All but a few of the 184 cases have occurred in these four counties. I will not be able to travel to the US Embassy in Nairobi to get my US passport renewed which I must do before my current passport expires on October 20.

Kenyans are always energetic, innovative people. Medical practitioners have realized that the machines they have to test for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS can be modified to test for Cuvid-19. As a result they plan on vastly increasing the number of people to be tested including everyone working in health facilities. This will probably uncover additional cases, but it a major step to stop the spread of the virus.

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Here is the current case load in nearby African countries (plus the United States for comparison) as of Thursday, April 9:

CountryCasesCasesIncreaseDeathsRecovered
April 9 April 2April 9April 9
Burundi 33000
Ethiopia56292724
Kenya18411074712
Rwanda113823107
Somalia125711
South Sudan30300
Sudan158722
Tanzania2520515
Uganda5345800
Eastern Africa4643021621331
United States468,566245,193223,37316,69125,928

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David Zarembka

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