Plan to reopen economy mired by rising COVID-19 cases

Source Xinhua

Some Kenyans are looking forward to the reopening of the country on July 6 by the government through the lifting of restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

But the East African nation’s plan to return to full normalcy faces challenges as infections rise exponentially.

The restrictions put in place include a partial lockdown in Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa and a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Some businesses like bars and schools and places of worship remain shut as passenger vehicles carry half their capacity to curb the spread of the disease.

Kenyans are optimistic that President Uhuru Kenyatta will lift the restrictions on July 6 when this round of partial lockdown and curfew lapses.

Kenyatta on Sunday in a virtual meeting observed that the restrictions will be lifted to help boost the economy.

“We will soon start domestic flights and this is what we will use as our trial in readiness for international travel over the next couple of days since we are opening up the lockdown in days,” he said.

But jitters are setting in as the COVID-19 infections in the East African nation rise at an alarming rate. The Kenyan cases on Sunday crossed the 6,000 mark to stand at 6,070 after 259 more people tested positive.

The bulk of the cases have been registered in June, where daily positives hit an all-time high of 279.

“It is worrying that the cases are rising faster at a time when the government is supposed to lift restrictions to reopen the economy,” said Fred Nderitu, who runs a vehicle spare parts shop in Nairobi.

Nderitu noted that the sharp surge in positive cases means the disease will spread faster if restrictions are lifted.

His sentiments capture those of thousands of other ordinary citizens, who are looking forward to full resumption of activities with uncertainty.

“I had hoped that starting next month, we will start carrying full capacity passengers but those infection numbers make it harder to entertain such thoughts,” said James Mutua, a matatu conductor.

Health experts have observed that Kenya’s infections are at an exponential stage, with the surge in numbers raising fears that the disease may overwhelm the health system.

So far, June has been the darkest month for the East African nation. As of June 28, some 85,142 samples had been tested and 4,049 people were found positive, according to the ministry of health.

In March, 3,419 samples were tested and 78 turned positive; in April, 19,108 samples were tested and 328 were found positive while in May, out of 57,527 samples, 1,615 turned positive.

According to Mercy Mwangangi, Health Chief Administrative Secretary, this is evidence that the number of those testing positive is on a sharp increase.

Mwangangi noted on Sunday that the reopening of the country depends on the level of preparedness of counties in terms of testing, treating and caring for patients.

This is because once the country is opened, infections are expected to spread from hotspots like Nairobi and Mombasa to the rest of the nation.

Kenya is currently implementing a home-based care model for COVID-19 patients to prevent the disease from over-running the health system.

The program is being implemented in conjunction with community health workers under county governments.

The pandemic has hit the East African nation’s economy harder, with all sectors hurt, but in particular tourism and export trade.

According to the World Bank, Kenya’s gross domestic product is expected to decelerate in 2020 due to the negative impact of COVID-19.