Nakuru health officials blame spike in coronavirus cases to recklessness

Health officials in Nakuru have linked the current spike in Covid-19 cases to reckless behaviour among residents.

They said the numbers started increasing as soon as President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted restrictions on bars and social gatherings three weeks ago.

Chief Officer in charge of Public Health Samuel King’ori said in spite of Covid-19 positive cases having accumulated to 1,365, with 35 deaths in the county; the locals have largely ignored hand washing, social distancing and wearing of face masks in public.

“Within the social places, individuals do not wear facemasks and also observe social distancing among other measures aimed at averting infections.” Mr King’ori said.

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He added “We are witnessing a worrying trend of people flocking social places like bars, where they become reckless after drinking alcohol,”

Reports by the Ministry of Health reveal that Nakuru is becoming the country’s epicentre, with positive cases having risen to 6.7 per cent, higher than the 4.6 per cent nationally.

For example, out of 5, 320 samples tested on October 9, 442 turned positive, with Nakuru ranked with the highest number of 94, followed by Nairobi that had 80 cases.

The county also witnessed a surge in number with 75 cases reported on October 2.

Also on October 7, Nakuru recorded 37 Covid-19 positive cases after Nairobi County that had 109 cases. The cases that have been on the rise for the past two weeks.

According to county Covid-19 documentation, Nakuru Town East is an epicentre of total infections reported in the county, reported daily.

Biashara Ward is the leading area of infections within the sub-county, as it has markets and matatu termini, including highly frequented restaurants and bars.

“Some of the people infected with the virus got exposed in social places,” said the official.

King’ori added that people are also not wearing facemasks, with those putting on, do so to avoid being arrested.

He said only 25 per cent of the population wear facemasks.

Asked why the department of health is not arresting those flouting set measures, he replied that not everyone can be arrested and placed in cells and that keeping safe should be a personal responsibility.

“Arresting people means we should take them to cells, and with such, we might end up having more infections,” he said.

World Food Program (WFP), ranked Nakuru among Covid-19 hotspot counties in the country alongside Busia, Garissa, Kajiado, Machakos, Migori, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nairobi, Siaya, Uasin Gishu and Wajir.

Reckless behaviours

A spot check by The Standard in the sprawling Kaptembwo and Kwa Rhonda in Nakuru Town West constituency confirmed that most residents have violated the regulation put in place by the Ministry of Health to curb the spread of the virus.

Asked why they have ignored the rules, they claimed coronavirus ‘is a lie’ perpetuated by some corrupt government officials who have enriched themselves with funds donated by well-wishers, foreign government and other donors.

“Is coronavirus real or fiction? Why can’t the government bring us someone who is suffering from the disease, for us to easily relate to it?” posed Rashid Belia, a resident.

Mary Nyamboita said a few who wear face masks only do so to avoid arrest or harassment by security officers.

“People seem to fear police more than contracting the virus. We have truly remained unconscious in social distancing, washing hands. We are back to normal,” said Nyamboita.

Another resident, Peter Waweru, claimed though police were supposed to enforce the health regulations to curb the spread of the virus; most of them have resulted in harassing innocent residents and taking bribes.

“Police harass people who seem to have money, and not enforcing the law. This makes us doubt even if there is this disease because we also have misappropriation of funds,” said Waweru.

The Standard established that out of 10 people in market places within the estates, only one wear face masks, and even those wearing they do improperly.

At Soko Mjinga market, though there is a supply of water points, locals do not pay attention to hand washing.

Those selling foodstuffs including vegetables, fruits and cooked food within the market too do not wear a facemask, claiming they are uncomfortable.

Observing social distancing here is a tall order in the market, with individuals walking in groups as they shake hands as normal.

The locals buy foodstuffs in the market including fruits, roasted maize and French fries that they feed, even without washing their hands.

Butchery operators do not wear face masks, yet they roast mutura, a delicacy to the majority of locals who buy and feed within the premises.

Matatu industry has also ignored the rules, for instance, while at their respective termini, they limit the number of passengers as per the law, but along the road, they carry excess passengers.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui has pleaded with the masses to observe set measures, even amid the ongoing target tracing and risk communication to avert its spread.

“Through our surveillance team continue with contact tracing and educating the community, let us continue washing our hands with soap and water and keep social distancing,” said Mr Kinyanjui.

Nakuru West Town Sub County Police commander Samson Gathuku said though police continue to enforce public health law aimed at limiting the spread of the virus, locals have remained arrogant.

Mr Gathuku said the majority wear masks whenever they spot police officers but many have largely ignored the rules.

“It is unfortunate that locals in the slum estates need policing to wear masks. We arrest them but at now, the courts are closed making it hard for us to enforce the law,” said the police boss.

He dismissed allegations that police take bribes from locals, saying no complaints has been made.

The police boss added that dusk to dawn curfew is smoothly enforced.

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