NAIROBI (Reuters) – President Uhuru Kenyatta barred movement into and out of Kenya’s four regions most affected by the new coronavirus on Monday, including the capital Nairobi.
His order tightens restrictions already in place to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 respiratory disease it causes. It applies for 21 days and also includes the port city of Mombasa and the counties of Kilifi and Kwale.
“We are at war and we must win,” Kenyatta said in a televised address. “We must make a stand here, before COVID-19 starts to spread out of control, and we must be ready to go even further if necessary.”
African countries were not among the first hit by COVID-19 but the number of confirmed cases has increased over the last month and there have been hundreds of deaths on the continent.
South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria’s largest city Lagos have all introduced strict measures limiting people’s movement to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.
On Sunday, Madagascar extended containment orders for the capital Antananarivo and Toamasina for 15 days. The measures on the Indian Ocean Island suspended all public transport, imposed a daily curfew and closed government offices in the two cities.
Kenya Airports Authority said on Monday it was suspending domestic flights for 21 days at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and other local airports on the coast. Kenya Railways said on its Facebook page it was stopping its daily service between Nairobi and Mombasa.
Kenya, which has reported 158 coronavirus cases and six deaths, had already limited flights in and out of the country.
On Monday, Kenyatta also ordered Kenyans to wear masks while in public.
“This virus is unforgiving and its rate of growth, if not arrested, is exponential,” he said.
Kenyatta said a majority of the COVID-19 cases in Kenya – East Africa’s richest economy – were residents of Nairobi and the country’s coastal strip, and the new restrictions on movement were intended to prevent the virus spreading to other parts of the country.
Movement of food supplies and other cargo will continue as normal, Kenyatta said.
Restrictions already in place, including the daily nightly dusk-till-dawn curfew for the entire country, will continue, he said.
(Reporting by Omar Mohammed; additional reporting by George Obulutsa and Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi and Lovasoa Rabary in Antananarivo; Editing by Ed Osmond, Lisa Shumaker and Timothy Heritage)