President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Saturday, May 16, that he had ordered the closure of Kenya's borders with Tanzania and Somalia in response to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Exceptions will be made for freight traffic, with drivers being tested for coronavirus at the border before being allowed to continue their journeys. However, a similar policy at the northern border with Uganda, which has been closed since March 23, has already led to long delays, with trucks being stuck at crossing points for up to a day as drivers wait for test results to be delivered from Nairobi.
Saturday's announcement also saw the nationwide 19:00 to 05:00 (local time) curfew, as well as lockdowns in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, and Mandera counties, extended until June 6. The move came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kenya rose above 800, with 49 new positive test results taking the total to 830.
Medical professionals and essential service providers are exempt from the curfew, which was introduced on April 25. However, other COVID-19 mitigation measures have been introduced across the country. Face masks or coverings must be worn at all times when in public and a distance of 1 m (3 ft) maintained from other people. Businesses have been ordered to provide soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer at building entryways. Those found in breach of the new measures could face a Sh 20,000 (USD 189) fine or six months of jail time.
All international flights to and from Kenya, with the exception of cargo and repatriation operations, have been suspended since March 25. The suspension was previously due to be lifted on June 5 but it is currently unclear whether this has been extended as part of the latest round of measures. Authorities have launched an online portal for foreign nationals present in the country wishing to extend their visitor's visas.
As of May 16, there have been 830 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 50 associated deaths nationwide. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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