Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe gives an update on the Covid-19 disease in Kenya at Afya House in Nairobi on March 28, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic reached Kenya in March 2020 with the initial cases reported in Nairobi and Kajiado Counties.

March 2020

On 13 March, the first case in Kenya, a 27-year-old Kenyan woman who traveled from the US via London, was confirmed.[1] The Kenyan government identified and isolated a number of people who had come into contact with the first case.

On 15 March, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mutahi Kagwe, announced that two people who had sat next to the initial patient on the aircraft in transit from the United States had also tested positive for the virus.[2] Schools were closed and public gatherings were prohibited. Also as a result, the country’s borders were closed to all except Kenyan citizens and legal residents.

On 16 March, the government through its spokesman Col Cyrus Oguna said on an update that there were another three people who were suspected to be carriers of the virus and that their results were to be released soon.[3]

On 17 March, it was announced by the Health Secretary that a fourth case had been diagnosed. On 18 March, three more cases confirmed were by the Health Secretary, bringing the total confirmed cases in Kenya to seven.

On 22 March, eight more cases were confirmed by the Health Secretary, bringing the total cases confirmed to 15. The government confirmed it was tracing 363 people who are believed to have had contact with the eight new cases.

On 23 March, another case was confirmed bringing the total confirmed cases to 16.

On 24 March, nine more cases reported for a total of 25 nationally.

On 25 March, the first recovery was confirmed, and three more cases were recorded, bringing the total confirmed cases to 28.[9][10]

On 26 March, three more cases were recorded and bringing the total confirmed cases to 31. In addition to Nairobi, the government confirmed that corona virus cases in Kenya are spread among four other counties, namely KajiadoMombasaKilifi, and Kwale. On the same date, the first death of a person infected with the corona virus was reported in Kenya. The patient was a 66 year-old Kenyan man who had contracted the virus while traveling from South Africa via Eswatini.

On March 28, the ministry of health confirmed 7 more cases, bringing a total tally of confirmed covid-19 cases in Kenya to 38. On the same day, the government announced that 2 patients who had earlier tested positive had tested negative and were awaiting for a second test to confirm they had fully recovered.

Government Response

In response to the rise of corona virus cases in Kenya to 3, on 15 March the government of Kenya closed all schools and directed that all public and private sector workers work from home, wherever possible.  Travel restrictions were later imposed to prevent non-residents from entry. Kenyan nationals and residents were required to self-quarantine for a minimum of fourteen days.

On 22 March, following the confirmation of an additional eight cases, bringing the total to 16 nationally, the Kenyan government introduced additional measures and directives to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the country. These measures include a suspension of all international flights effective at midnight on 25 March, with the exception of cargo flights (all persons entering the country will be compelled to undergo quarantine at a government facility). The government further stipulated that any persons, including senior government officials, found to be in violation of quarantine measures would be forcefully quarantine at their own expense. All bars are to be closed until further notice as of 22 March, with restaurants allowed to remain open for takeaway services only. All public service vehicles (i.e., matatus and buses) must adhere to passenger distancing guidelines previously stipulated on 20 March. Further, all churches, mosques, and other gatherings (e.g., funerals), are restricted to no more than 15 persons, and weddings are banned. Public gatherings of more than 15 people outdoors are also barred.

On 25 March, President Uhuru Kenyatta, following the reporting of an additional three cases, announced a nation-wide curfew on unauthorized movement from 7 PM to 5 AM beginning on Friday, 27 March. The government also unveiled measures to buffer Kenyans against financial hardships arising movement restrictions associated with the coronavirus crisis, including:

  • 100% tax relief to Kenyans earning KSh 24,000 ($228 USD) and below.
  • Pay as you earn (PAYE) reduction from a maximum of 30% to 25%.
  • Reduction of turnover tax rate from 3% to 1% for all micro, small and medium enterprises.
  • Reduction of resident income tax to 25%.
  • Making available KSh 10 billion ($95 million USD) to vulnerable groups including the elderly and orphans, among others.
  • Temporary suspension of the listing of loan defaulters for of any person, micro, small and medium enterprise and corporate entities whose loan account is in arrears effective 1 April 2020.
  • Reduction of VAT from 16% to 14% effective 1 April 2020.

The government also moved to increase allocation of funds for health care, along with other fiscal adjustments to the economy:

  • KSh 1 billion ($9.5 million USD) from the Universal Health Coverage kitty to be channeled to the employment of new health workers to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
  • The president and his deputy to take 80% pay-cut, all Cabinet Secretaries to take 30% pay-cuts, Chief Administrative Secretaries (30%) and Principal Secretaries (20%).
  • All State and public officers aged 50 and above; and have preexisting medical conditions, to take leave from work, or be allowed to work from home. This directive excludes those public officers working in the security department.
  • Central Bank of Kenya to lower the Central Bank Rate from 8.25% to 7.25%.
  • Reduce the Cash Reserve Ratio from 5.25% to 4.25% to increase liquidity of KSh 35 billion to commercial banks, which, in turn, will be in positions to provide loan services to “distressed Kenyans”.

Impact

The travel restrictions reduced Kenya’s vital hotel, tourism and flower industries. In contrast to citizens in industrialized countries, some Kenyans have the ability to switch from their city jobs to rural labor for food.

The number of coronavirus cases in Kenya has risen to 42 after four more cases were confirmed on Sunday.

During a briefing on Sunday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said of the four, one is a Kenyan, one American, one Cameroonian and one Burkina Faso national. He said three of the cases were based in Nairobi and one in Mombasa. The CS said of the 42 cases, 24 are male while 16 are females.

….More to follow

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