Kenya coronavirus cases hit 225, Sonko’s ‘alcohol for the poor’ plans

Kenya stats: As of April 15, COVID-19 cases rise to 225 as 9 more Kenyans test positive; five cases reported in Nairobi and 4 in Mombasa, Health Minister Muhati Kagwe confirms in daily briefing.

Twelve more people have been discharged raising the number of recoveries to 53; number of deaths rises to 10, an addition of one.

Meanwhile, embattled governor of Nairobi, has become the butt of social media mockery after he sparked controversy about plans to distribute alcohol as part of food packs for poor families who are missing work because of coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Mike Sonko made the announcement at a media briefing on Tuesday and has been trending on social media for saying he had “small bottles of Hennessy in the food packs that we will be giving to our people.”

“From the research which has been conducted by World Health Organization (WHO) and various health organisations it has been revealed that alcohol plays a very major role in killing the coronavirus or any sort of virus,” he added.

A fact check on Sonko’s claims by a BBC journalist returned a false verdict about alcohol protecting people from contracting the virus. The process relied largely on WHO material to disprove Sonko’s “WHO claims.”

“We will have some small bottles of Hennessy in the food packs that we will be giving to our people…” – Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko 

Note: WHO warns that drinking alcohol does not protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) April 14, 2020 

April 14: Tally hits 216, mass testing to start 

Kenya coronavirus statistics as of April 14 had reached 216 confirmed cases with 41 recoveries and nine deaths according to the Ministry of Health. 

In the last 24 hours, Kenya tested 694 samples. Out of these samples, 8 tested positive for coronavirus disease, CAS Dr. Mwangangi confirmed. Six cases were picked from mandatory quarantine centers whiles 2 were picked by the Ministry’s surveillance teams.

Mass testing is to start soon in the next phase of the COVID-19 combat, Dr Mwangangi further confirmed. “We are rolling out the mass testing exercise in consideration of risk areas i.e quarantine centers, hotels and isolation facilities, hospitals & high population density areas such as Kibra.

“The 1st phase of the mass testing will see approximately 12,000 testing kits deployed to the targeted areas. We have deployed 1000 testing kits to the Kenya Ports Authority, Mombasa county, based on the risk of transmission as well as Mandera & Siaya Counties,” she announced.

April 12: Siaya infected as tally hits 197, MP nabbed over curfew breach 

Kenya’s confirmed cases is nearing 200 mark with six new cases bringing the tally as at April 12 to 197. Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe has announced.

According to the statement, out of the six, five were patients in mandatory quarantine centres while one was picked by the ministry’s surveillance team. In the last 24 hours, we have tested 766 samples and out of the number, six have tested positive for Covid-19,” he said.

Siaya county became the latest to record a case, one of the six cases was recorded in the country, another in Mombabsa with the remaining four from Nairobi. He further disclosed that five of the new cases are Kenyans while one is a foreign national.

Kenya has also recorded another recovery bring the total recovery tally to 25. A death was also recorded bringing to eight the total. “We regret to inform you that we have lost one patient in Siaya. This now brings the total number of Coronavirus deaths to eight,” he said, adding that contact tracing is ongoing.

2,160 contacts have been monitored out of which 1,660 have been discharged with 500 contacts being followed.

Kenya has so far tested 7,449 since the first case was reported in the country.

MP who violated curfew arrested

The Standard Digital portal reports that Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru was on Saturday evening arrested in a pub after breaking the curfew directive. The MP was among others who were arrested at the Royal Tavern Pub in Ruai for flouting the curfew rule. 

County commander Philip Ndolo confirmed the arrests. Meanwhile, a group of residents from Embakasi’s Nyayo Estate were arrested for attending a birthday party in one of the homes. 

In South Africa a minister was suspended by the president for breaching lockdown regulations to attend lunch. In Nigeria, a popular entertainment couple were charged for hosting a party in the commercial capital of Lagos. In both instances, it took postings on social media to land them in trouble.

April 11: Muted Easter celebrations, the Kibera food stampede 

Churches and other Christian places of worship have been closed across the capital Nairobi as most Easter services have moved from in-church to online.

The usual pomp and celebration that characterizes the period is gone as people observe a stay home order which is at the heart of government’s containment order of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The few churches that held service did so with strict protocols from social distancing to use of face masks and provision of sanitizers. Hundreds of thousands are having to stay at home and by that cancel plans of travelling to celebrate the annual event with families in other counties.

“This is a spiritual attack. Church happens when people gather, and there are people who feel that something is amiss if they do not take sacrament. We have to keep safe and stop gathering, but it is difficult,” says Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit. 

He stressed that the church was using social media platforms to reach out to the faithful. “I have asked the bishops to use technology to preach on Good Friday and Easter Sunday,” he is quoted to have said.

For his part, Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria says at the heart of Easter sermons will be celebrating family love and that Easter sermons will also be streamed online for the faithful.

“Easter is a moment of hope and celebration of victory of love over death, and light over darkness. When we have the dark clouds of corona hanging over us, we encourage people to celebrate family love, and offer each other the gift of smiles and service,” says Muheria.

Easter season with a difference: With empty churches and parks, it’s Easter like no other

The Kibera food distribution stampede

Thousands of people surged for food aid in a brief stampede Friday in Kenya’s capital, desperate for help as coronavirus restrictions keep them from making a living. Police fired tear gas and injured several people, witnesses said.

Residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slum, spotting a food distribution, tried to force their way through a gate outside a district office for their chance at supplies to keep their families fed for another day.

The scene in Kenya’s largest slum reflected the fears of millions across Africa as nearly 20 countries have imposed full lockdowns and others have shut down cities or imposed curfews. 

A vast population of informal workers, with little or no savings, worries about the next meal as no one knows when the measures will end. Already, Rwanda and South Africa have extended their lockdowns by two weeks.

In the Nairobi chaos, men with sticks beat people back as they fought over packages of food, some with face masks dangling off their chins. Some people fell and were trampled. Dust rose. Women shrieked. Injured people were carried to safety and placed on the ground to recover, gasping for breath.

“The people who have been injured here are very many, even we cannot count,” said one resident, Evelyn Kemunto. “Both women and children have been injured. There was a woman with twins, she has been injured, and even now she is looking for her twins. … It is food we were coming for since we are dying of hunger.”

The crowd had heard that popular opposition leader Raila Odinga had donated the food, said witness Richard Agutu Kongo, a 43-year-old who operates a motorcycle taxi. But in fact the distribution was from another well-wisher who had given selected families cards to turn in and receive aid, he said.

April 10: Cases reach 189, government gazettes regulations 

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe announced today that 5 more Kenyans have tested positive after analysis of 504 samples; Kenya’s number of cases now 189. He added that 10 more people to be discharged from Mbagathi hospital after testing negative: number of recoveries now 22.

Meanwhile, government has gazetted COVID-19 related regulations which include hefty penalties for persons caught flouting directives issued in line with the Public Health Act. The penalties range from a fine of Sh20,000 or a six months’ imprisonment or both.

A Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 41 signed by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe indicated that some of the offences to be tracked are: failure to wear a mask while using public or private transport and failure to maintain social distance.

“Users of public or private transport and public transport operators shall wear a proper mask that must cover the person’s mouth and nose and also maintain a physical distance of not less than one metre.”

As per the new rules, organisations, business entities, traders whether in a market or enclosed premises are required to provide at their business location or entrance to their premises, a handwashing station with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser which is approved for use by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

COVID-19: HEALTH CS Mutahi Kagwe says 5 more Kenyans have tested positive after analysis of 504 samples; Kenya’s number of cases now 189. #covid_19Ke— NationBreakingNews (@NationBreaking) April 10, 2020 

April 9: MPs infection report disputed, Ruto urges obedience of COVID-19 rules 

The government today responded to claims that some 17 lawmakers had tested positive for COVID-19. The Chief Administrator of the Health Ministry, Mercy Mwangangi, had earlier on Wednesday dismissed the report carried by some top newspapers.

“It is important to ensure that labs follow protocols (in revealing results), as it stands, we have no formal reports of (confirmed positive cases in private labs),” she is quoted to have said.

Meanwhile, head of Lancet laboratories, a private-firm which carried out the tests on some MPs, said: “The information circulating in the media about COVID-19 confirmed cases at Parliament is completely incorrect, misleading and should be disregarded.’

Ahmed Kalebi added: “In particular the information circulating both in terms of purported numbers and names of people who have allegedly tested positive for the COVID-19 is entirely false.” On Wednesday, a number of lawmakers posted their results on social media to prove that the reports were untrue.

Meanwhile, the newspapers in question have come under censure on Thursday morning across social media. Their common headline of “We Stand With Kenyans,” have been rubbished by Twitter users.

“We know your sales are down and therefore being SENSATIONAL or just outright malicious! Sorry to also rain on the parade of all those celebrating our supposed infections, it is lies, fake news! Anyone can get infected but in this case this is just malice by The Star on MPs,” Senator Susan Kihika, a Majority Chief Whip tweeted.

Deputy president William Ruto has also made his first coronavirus address tasking citizens to respect all rules and regulations imposed by government to contain the spread of a disease he described as a paradox. he touched on a range of issues including government intervention and the need for all hands to be on deck in the fight.

“Coronavirus can’t move, it needs our bodies to transfer from one place to another, curtailing our movement will hugely prevent the movement of this virus…”

“Every Kenyan should go an extra mile and ensure their family and friends adhere to the safety measures… let us be our brother’s keeper…” 

“Our first key task is to assemble and provide a body of accurate and verifiable information to the public and to work with all partners including the media so as to empower citizens to take the right choices…”

“Corona virus can’t move, it needs our bodies to transfer from one place to another, curtailing our movement will hugely prevent the movement of this virus…” – William Ruto, Deputy President— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) April 9, 2020 

April 8: Seven new cases Uhuru rules out total lockdown 

Confirmed cases in Kenya has reached 179 with seven new cases recorded from the last round of tests, a top official of the Health Ministry noted on Wednesday.

“In the last 24 hours, we have tested a total of 305 samples, out of which seven people have tested positive for the Coronavirus disease. All the seven are Kenyans, the Ministry noted. Four of them have travel history. Five of them are from Nairobi county. 

In terms of contact tracing, authorities have a total of 2,004 persons under monitoring, out of which 1,426 have been discharged and 578 are currently on follow up. To date, authorities have managed to test 5,278 samples from individuals.

Meanwhile a recall of parliament scheduled for today was cancelled due to travel ban on movement into and out of the capital Nairobi. A measure ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier this week. Lower house Speaker Justin Muturi confirmed the decision to local media late Tuesday.

Nairobi and three countries in the coastal region have been identified as coronavirus hot spots. A key motivation for the restriction is to prevent the spread of the virus into other regions ahead of the Easter weekend.

Two widely-circulated newspapers Daily Nation and The Star have also reported that some lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19. Already some MPs were under a mandatory quarantine after returning from international trips in early March.

#Top5At5 Here are the stories making headlines this evening.— TheStarKenya (@TheStarKenya) April 8, 2020 

April 7: Uhuru rules out total lockdown 

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta explained further why he had not locked down the entire country averring that it was in the interest of the greater public good.

According to him, doing so will mean depriving a sizeable number of the population from feeding. He stresses that it would be the last resort if current containment measures fail to achieve the needed objective.

Barely 24-hours prior, he had imposed restrictions on exiting and entering the capital Nairobi and three other coastal counties where cases were being recorded. 

President Kenyatta’s latest responses were in a radio interview on Tuesday morning, where he reiterated the need for citizens to obey all instructions in the interest of public safety. 

Th president also disclosed that he had ordered the arrest of deputy governor who had flouted medical advice over quarantine thus endangering the lives of members of the public. “I am the one who said that the Kilifi Deputy Governor should be arrested… I am praying that he gets 10 years,” he said.

April 6: Kenya cases rise to 158, transport regulations being enforced 

President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed that the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country stood at 158 as of April 6, an increase of 16 new cases. 

The president was delivering an address on Monday on measures that government continued to take in combating the virus that has claimed six lives so far. Kenya has also recorded four recoveries. 

The president declared the cessation of movement in Nairobi, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa Counties for 21 days. He disclosed that 82% of COVID-19 have been in Nairobi and 14 per cent have been in the other coastal counties.

The Nairobi directive starts today (Monday) at 7 pm while that of the other counties will begin from Wednesday.Some quotes from the president’s address:

A majority of those who have contracted the disease are from Nairobi metropolitan area, Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa counties

This coronavirus does not care about religion, tribe or size of your wallet. Defeating it will require us to put aside our differences and stand together. Make no mistake, we are at war and we must be together to win this war

We must heed and comply with govt directives. We must take extra care not to expose those over 50 years

I will go to any lawful length to respond to covid-19…There is a choice we have to make: do we live as normal or fundamentally change the way we live?

Our greatness will show in the sacrifices we make to protect one another. Wearing your mask and washing hands does indeed save lives

President Uhuru Kenyatta: We will do everything in our power to ensure our nation does not suffer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) April 6, 2020 

Kenya has started enforcing a set of rules for transport operators in the wake of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Transport Minister James Macharia said on Sunday that flouters will face the law.

“From Monday April 6, 2020, any public transport vehicle found not observing the set directives, will have their Sacco licenses suspended and the vehicle bonded.”

The set rules in question are a cut down on the number of passengers that a vehicle can carry as part of social distancing measures. Kenya is also stressing the need for people to wear their masks as frequently as possible.

Top official of the health ministry as of yesterday confirmed that local production of the masks was advanced adding that disbursements were to be done at the county level by organized groups.

April 4: Raila urges social discipline and respect for directives 

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has urged citizens to remain disciplined and look out for loved ones amid the coronavirus outbreak that has forced government to impose a night-time curfew across the country.

According to the Orange Democratic Movement leader, the time to fight the pandemic was now and it rested on every individual and on all Kenyans. His views were contained in a statement issued on Saturday, April 4.

It read in part: “If we don’t take personal control now, there will be no control to take later. You remain in my thoughts and prayers. I am calling on every Kenyan to use his or her existing personal social connections and ask them daily to protect themselves from the coronavirus.”

Odinga also underlined the need for citizens to check on one another during these times reiterating his call a week ago that there was the need to respect all regulations put in place by authorities to help defeat the pandemic.

“Do not focus on strangers. Focus on people you have a personal relationship with,” Raila stressed the critical role young people had to play with resources at their disposal. He tasked the youth to be Kenya’s new soldiers and saviours.

“Use the advantages of technology and social media to encourage your friends to stay safe and to keep them company from a social distance,” he added.

Letter to my fellow Kenyans.— Raila Odinga (@RailaOdinga) April 4, 2020 

In a report released by technology giant Google, social spots across Kenya have increasingly been abandoned in the wake of social distancing measures put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic. “This type of data is used to show how crowded certain types of places are,” Google explained in a statement. 

The report noted that shopping malls, restaurants and recreational spots recorded considerably lower visits between a three week period in March (March 8 – March 29). 

Some findings over the period were as follows:

Customer traffic to restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, libraries and movie theatres dropped by 45%.

Traffic to bus and train stations similarly went down by 39%.

Open-air markets, food warehouses, drug stores and pharmacies recorded a 33% drop.

Residential estates marked the only rise in traffic, recording 17% more movement.

Places of work on the other hand recorded a 22% drop.

The report uses anonymised data from users on Google Maps relying on the location data to create an accurate pattern of real-time social movement across the country.

Explaining the reason for releasing the report at this time, the tech giant said: “Google has heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymised data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat Covid-19.”

READ MORE: Cafes, malls big losers in war against pandemic

April 3: Kilifi deputy governor arrested, pastors want churches to be made “essential” 

Deputy governor of Kilifi County has been arrested by authorities for failing to self-isolate. Gideon Saburi was declared virus-free yesterday after undergoing treatment.

On Friday, he was handcuffed after his release and taken away by security operatives from the Coast General Hospital where he was treated.

He is one of four recovered patients in the country where records indicate that 2,201 tests have been conducted with the case toll at 122 and death toll at 4. Kenya recored a boom in cases with over 40 cases in two days.

BREAKING: A six year old child dies in Kenya due to complications from #coronavirus, authorities say. The child had other ailments according to NationBreaking. Kenya also reports 12 new positive Corona Virus cases, bringing the total cases to 122, per local media.— Harun Maruf (HarunMaruf) April 3, 2020 

Meanwhile a group of pastors are appealing for churches to be added to “essential services” allowed to operate during the pandemic. Government is currently enforcing a night time curfew along with strict social interaction rules.

The bloc from Kenya’s eastern Makueni insist that faith is the “best way to fight the unseen enemy.” Per their request, they want to be allowed to hold Sunday services in open grounds, while adhering to the proposed one-metre distance between people to prevent infection.

“It is sad that in the current situation, the church has been left out, closed (and) we feel that as a country, we may be involved in a futile exercise. The church even though a spiritual institution has a reference point on the altar.

“To us, the church is the last place of hope and resilience, indeed a safe haven to the downtrodden and the stricken by any form of calamity… we feel that the church was left out and excluded, we feel that we were unfairly locked out of solution providers to the predicament affecting our people,” spokesperson of the pastors, Nicholas Kyule, said.

Another, Titus Uswii, was quoted in the Star Newspaper as saying that the country “may be involved in a futile exercise” as long as churches remain closed.

By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban