Kenyan police use violence to enforce curfew against spread of Covid-19

According to government figures, announced on 31 March, 50 people in Kenya have tested positive for Covid-19, with two deaths.

However it is generally believed that there are many more cases. And although the government has issued strict measures ordering people to stay at home the regulations are difficult to enforce in cities where many of the “homes” are rudimentary constructions in very crowded conditions.

Police are being used to reinforce the regulations but this has led to brutality and violence in several parts of the country, particularly in Mombasa. The police reaction has been so severe that it prompted the justice and peace commission of the Catholic bishop's conference to release an official protest saying that the level of violence is unacceptable and is bringing even more suffering and hardship to vulnerable parts of the population. 

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The first measures against the spread of Covid-19 were brought in by the Kenyan government on 15 March, with the closure of schools and orders for all public and private employees to work from home when possible. On 25 March the borders were closed, international flights were suspended and public transport, such as the usually overcrowded matatus and buses, was ordered to practise social distancing. All religious services and public gatherings of over 15 people were banned and the country's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced a public curfew from 19.00 to 5.00. 

The president also announced a long list of monetary and fiscal measures to support the economy such as tax relief, reduction of taxes on small and medium companies, reductions of income tax and reduction of sales tax. It is anticipated that tourism and horticulture, both of which depend heavily on European markets, will be badly hit. 

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But many Kenyans have no official jobs or known income and these are the people who will be suffer most. Over 80 per cent of the total work force are informal labourers.

Two large refugee camps, Dadaab and Kakuma, are also a worry should contagion spread there. According to the official figures of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kenya, Kakuma (close to the South Sudan and Uganda borders) had 194,194 registered refugees and asylum seekers at the end of February 2020 and Dadaab (not far from the border with Somalia) had 217,197, making it the third largest camp in the world.

According to figures from the African Union's Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on 31 March South Africa had the highest number of cases on the continent with 1,326 people with the disease and 2 dead, followed by Egypt with 656 cases and 41 dead.

Kenya has accepted the request of the African Union and the World Health Organisation to host the African Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (Africa CDC), to be partly financed by China. It will become the continent's hub for medical research and control of infectious diseases and pandemics.

Ph: punghi /