The emergence of a new Covid-19 variant that spreads fast caused the government to enforce strict containment measures in the lake region.
The dusk-to-dawn curfew was escalated to start from 7 pm in 13 lake region counties in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
Church gatherings were banned for 30 days while burials were ordered to be conducted with 72 hours of death. Funeral attendance was limited to 50 people.
On Monday, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i said the measures had been taken to contain the contagion.
“It is not fun. We are not enjoying this. The variant is ferocious and affecting many,” Matiang’i said after a meeting with the Inter-Faith Council in Nairobi.
The council had demanded an explanation on the new restrictions having felt they were punitive.
Matiang’i said the situation was growing and action had to be taken. He asked churches and worshippers to respect the directives.
“We will relook at some of these measures put in place. The strongest and best defence for us is our individual measures.”
He said faith-based organizations are key in managing the virus and called for collaboration. The CS said he will extend the term of IFC to December to help in managing the pandemic.
Busia, Vihiga, Kisii, Nyamira, Kakamega, Kericho, Bomet, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, and Migori counties have been declared Covid-19 hotspots.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi said the attack rate in the 13 counties had gone up. “We have to keep telling them to be careful. Surveillance is key and laboratories picking samples for tests which show a worrying trend,” she told the IFC.
She said isolation beds were few but the government was working to ensure enough personal protective equipment for staff and more supply of oxygen.
IFC chairman Anthony Muheria asked political leaders to be concerned with the increasing cases in the western region.
“Sometimes we have to do unreasonable things. We must be concerned as Kenyans and sacrifice some things for our survival,” Muheria said.
Officials attributed the high positivity rate in the lake region to its proximity with Uganda which has recently been reporting a surge in Covid-19 infections.
The country is in a 42-day lockdown.
Experts have also blamed the Indian variant (Delta) for the rise in infections, which the ministry warned could soon overwhelm the healthcare system.
The highly infectious variant was first reported in Kisumu and is believed to be spreading in the community.
Security teams in the 13 counties have intensified patrols, following a review of the containment measures that were announced by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on June 17.
Save for essential and emergency service providers, the CS discouraged movement into and out of the hotspot counties.
Public and private sector employees in the 13 counties were advised to work from home, apart from those offering critical services.
Markets were suspended for 30 days while night vigils and overnight processions prior to funerals were banned.
All cross-border cargo drivers are required to possess a valid certificate indicating a negative Covid-19 test which must have been conducted not more than 48 hours before commencing the journey.
Cargo trucks were limited to only two persons per vehicle.
Public gatherings including house parties and sporting activities remain banned. The lake region has been accounting for close to 60 per cent of all new Covid-19 cases in the country, with a positivity rate of more than 21 per cent against the national average of nine per cent.