Covid slams the brakes on all-out Madaraka celebrations in Kisumu

Kisumu residents may have hoped to take part in Madaraka Day celebrations at Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium, but this will not be as only 3,000 invited guests will be inside the facility.

Unlike early this week when they welcomed ODM leader Raila Odinga in their thousands, the residents will only follow the proceedings from their homes due to the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.

It will be an anti-climax for the city which was hoping to see President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila share the podium at the national event taking place in Kisumu for the first time on Tuesday.

As government officials prepared for the celebration, the Ministry of Health painted a grim picture of the Covid-19 situation, with statistics showing an upsurge of cases in the lakeside city. Numbers released yesterday by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o show Kisumu was leading with the number of new coronavirus cases.

Of the 341 people who tested positive yesterday, Kisumu had 57 cases, Nairobi 48, Siaya 36, Mombasa and Kericho 22 each, Kirinyaga 19, Homa Bay 14, Nyamira 12, while Kilifi, Bungoma and Nandi had nine cases each.

Nyanza Regional Commissioner Magu Mutindika and Regional Police Commander Karanja Muiruri said security had been beefed up and that uninvited guests would not be allowed at the stadium.

‘’We have reinforced security all around the stadium,’’ said Muiruri.

Mutindika asked residents to observe the laid down protocols to avoid a possible clash with the security teams.

The Ministry of Interior and National Co-ordination in collaboration with the National Celebrations Committee and the county officials have identified guests and sent out invitations with the rest of residents asked to follow the celebrations from home.

There are fears among medics that the event may lead to the peak of the disease in the next 14 days.

National Nurses Association of Kenya Kisumu branch chairman Collins Ajwang said the number of Covid-19 patients was alarming. “It’s no secret that there is a surge in Covid-19 patients in our hospitals,” Ajwang said.

The Lake Region Economic Bloc, Health Pillar director Rosemary Obara, said controlling crowds during national celebrations or political situations would not be easy.

“The upsurge of the cases will be seen after the event if there’s a lapse in compliance,” Obara said.

Apart from the 3,000 cards sent to guests, about 20,000 people will follow the celebrations on big screens at Kirembe and Prophet David Owuor grounds and in Kisumu streets.

A spot check by The Standard showed that counties in Nyanza and Western were ill-prepared to handle the increased Covid-19 cases. Glaring disparities in level of preparedness of counties has caused worries amongst players in the sector as the region continues to record more cases of the pandemic.

Despite the number of infections in the region doubling, some counties lack basic supplies like oxygen, isolation and ICU beds to respond to the disease. The gaps are so entrenched that medical experts have warned shortages in basic supplies could hamper the war against the global pandemic.

Kakamega increased the number of ICU beds from six to 26 in preparation for a possible 4th wave in June. Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said the major challenge in the fight against the disease was lack of a testing centre in western.

And last week, Kisii County received a Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction Test machine, which has been installed and is ready for use. The county will no longer be taking samples to Kisumu for testing.

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