Many turn a deaf ear to simple rules to curb virus

Pillion passengers in Gitimbine, Meru County, on April 16, 2020 flout social distancing rules. PHOTO | CHARLES WANYORO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Riders in rural parts of the county carry more than one passenger and have ignored wearing face masks while at work.
  • When asked why they were not observing the social distancing requirement, they said the coronavirus infections were known to occur in urban areas.

Social distancing has been billed as one of the most effective ways of arresting the spread of coronavirus, and time and again, the government has been asking Kenyans to avoid crowding.

But despite numerous reminders by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, spot checks by the Nation reveal it is business as usual in most parts of Nyanza, Western and the South Rift.

Here, defiant and ignorant traders, boda-boda riders, fishmongers, brewers and the public continue to crowd at markets without a care.

In Nyanza, people continue to gather at major fish landing sites, markets and bus parks where social distancing still remains alien.

In Homa Bay Town, the “People’s Parliament” is a ticking time bomb as residents gather almost daily to debate on politics and current affairs next to the post office.

The “Parliament” is run by Homa Bay Bunge La Wenye Nchi, a local civic group, and is popular with aspiring politicians and serving leaders.

The leader of the civic group, Mr Walter Opiyi, wrote a notice to members, informing them to suspend all gatherings following the coronavirus outbreak, but they still frequent and gather at the place.

“There is nothing we can do at home, so we come here to chat on issues affecting the society. Coming here makes me feel better because I also get updated on what is happening around,” said one of men who was at the venue on Sunday.

BUSINESS BOOMING

In Ugunja town, Siaya County, despite police using force in the past to disperse crowds, traders and boda-boda operators continue to disregard the protocols.

At the main bus terminus at the junction of Ugunja-Ukwala road, business is abuzz with hundreds of traders selling their wares and customers haggling over prices.

Some bars within Siaya town also still let in customers, who are served behind closed doors to shield them from prying eyes of the police.

At Akala market, area police chief Harriet Kinya told the Nation that some traders refused to relocate to an open field that had been identified by the county government of Siaya in a bid to implement the social distancing rule.

“They still line up along the Kisumu-Bondo road, forming crowds along the highway, which is also risky to other road users,” she said.

Last week, five traders were arrested by the police in Akala for violating the social distancing regulations.

Social distancing is a challenge the county emergency response team in Siaya is battling, even at the KMTC campus quarantine centre.

In Kakamega, boda-boda riders and touts operating at matatu and bus termini continue to flout guidelines spelled out by the Health ministry.

PROTECTIVE GEAR

Riders in rural parts of the county carry more than one passenger and have ignored wearing face masks while at work.

Their passengers, too, are often without the face covers and do not seem to care about the consequences of their actions.

Those interviewed said they were forced to carry more one than one passenger due to the tough economic times.

“I bought the motorcycle on loan and I am expected to generate enough money to be able to pay for the motorbike and buy food for my family,” said an operator who declined to give his name.

Chairman of Kakamega Boda-Boda Welfare Association Robert Amachonyi said riders from rural areas were the ones breaking rules.

“We had done our best to get the riders to observe the regulations but they continue to be defiant. We are now calling on police officers to crack down on those flouting the law so that we can restore sanity in our operations,” he said.

In some salons and beauty parlours in Kakamega town, it is business as usual as clients fail to keep distance, as others are attended to without face masks.

Here, hair dressers go about their work in total disregard of the regulations. The Nation team visited rural homes in Kakamega East and found villagers going about their business without a worry.

COVID-19 MYTH

When asked why they were not observing the social distancing requirement, they said the coronavirus infections were known to occur in urban areas.

In Bomet, the Nation found hundreds of traders crowding at Mulot market, which was re-opened for business after a three-week closure.

Many were not wearing masks, and the market lacked hand washing stations and hand sanitisers.

Police and public health officers were not in sight to enforce the safety guidelines. Customers jostled in the market lying on the border of Bomet and Narok counties.

“It is unfortunate that the government has allowed the market to re-open without enforcing the set protocols to curb coronavirus spread,” said Mr Austin Rop, a resident.

The irony was that public health officers were screening people entering the county at the Bomet/Narok border, some 200 metres from the centre.

“Why screen people coming in yet those who are in are breaking all the rules?” Mr Rop asked.

In Kisii and Nyamira counties, police have arrested more than 60 people for flouting social distancing rules and for not wearing face masks.

Some locals have been defiant, exposing themselves and others to the disease.

POLICE BRIBED

Security officers on Saturday arrested 17 people within Kijauri township for the offences of failing to comply with the government’s directives and being drunk and disorderly.

At least nine revellers were arrested after they were found at Ikonge Hotspot Bar and Nyaramba Sherehe Bar.

“The suspects will be charged in court on Monday and may be placed under forced quarantine. We do not want people joking around,” said Nyamira County Commissioner Amos Mariba.

Some residents, however, claim some bar operators pay policemen to allow them continue operating. “The ones arrested in Gesima failed to pay,” said a resident.

In Vihiga, however, traders at Luanda market, a major trading centre in the county on the Kisumu-Busia highway, are keen on observing social distancing and hygiene.

This is after the county government identified additional selling points to reduce congestion.

Reports by Dickens Wasonga, Benson Amadala, George Odiwuor, Vitalis Kimutai, Derick Luvega and Ruth Mbula

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