It is now illegal to go outside in Kenya without wearing a protective mask as a precaution against the contagion of the Chinese coronavirus, the country’s Health Ministry announced this weekend.
With the country in a nationwide lockdown, citizens must now wear protection when venturing out to supermarkets or other essential public services. On Friday, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina confirmed that garment companies had sufficient material to manufacture six million masks within Kenya.
“This is a new requirement that must be complied,” said Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe at a press briefing on Saturday. “People must wear masks in public places.”
Kagwe went on to urge people to take personal responsibility by observing social distancing rules, adding that those who do not and consequently become infected will receive little sympathy from the government.
“It is a personal responsibility to ensure the disease does not spread. We cannot police distancing. It is very difficult,” Kagwe said, “You can only take responsibility for yourself. Please, don’t wait until you turn positive and then you start blaming the government.”
He also emphasized the role of the youth and various welfare groups in fighting the disease.
“The youth are a very important component of the society, that is why we want them to work with authorities in their respective regions to help in the fight against coronavirus,” he said. “the youth have worked very well through groups and that is what we want them to do in this fight.”
“If they bring that synergy in this war we will definitely succeed,” he continued. “We want to see the youth organizing themselves on the ground and ensuring they are enforcing social distancing and other measures put in place.”
Kenya has strong ties with China, where the pandemic began, with many Chinese workers stationed across the country. The African nation is a member of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global investment strategy aimed at increasing the regime’s influence across the world.
On Monday, Kenya’s Daily Nation reported that around 70 percent of Kenyans think that the government should enforce a complete nationwide lockdown, which will result in the country’s 40 million people being largely confined to their houses for at least a fortnight. However, the same survey found that 35 percent of Kenyans are not at all prepared for a quarantine should it be enforced.
The only other countries in East Africa to impose a lockdown are Rwanda and Uganda, both of whom remain behind Kenya in their infection rates. As of Monday afternoon, Kenya has recorded 158 cases of the coronavirus, leading to six deaths. Four people have made a full recovery.