Teens pose new headache to war on virus as parties go on

Social events, such as parties, are taking place despite rules legalising public gatherings in efforts to battle coronavirus. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • In Nairobi alone, police records show that at least 300 people are arrested on any given week while drinking at night since the start of the dusk-to-dawn curfew.
  • Regional Commissioner Njenga is recommending a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those found breaking the social distancing rules.

Carefree teens and young adults are emerging as one of the weakest links in slowing down the spread of coronavirus in Kenya, as they continue to act irresponsibly.

They are still throwing parties and organising social events. Currently, about 30 per cent of all infections comprise those below the age of 29, while 92 per cent are below 59, bringing a new headache to parents worried about their children.

But despite scientists and government officials warning everyone to keep social distance by staying at home, defiant young Kenyans — unbothered and unafraid of the pandemic — are moving social events to their houses, inside cars, parks and other open spaces outside malls and scenic locations.

The pushback by youth is now turning into a global crisis: “The frontal lobe of the brain is still developing, which means that skills like impulse control, delayed gratification and realising the consequences of actions are not fully in place,” a Harvard Health researcher recently wrote.

An investigation by the Nation found that others have made arrangements with their favourite bars and clubs, where they are locked in so as to socialise over a couple of drinks in what is now being termed as ‘coronavirus parties’.

Phycologists say that teens are not made for isolation and that they are finding it hard to cope with the social distance rule.

WEEKEND PARTIES

While bars and night clubs have been banned from operating for a month now by the government in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, too many young people do not seem to take the virus seriously.

While the government shut down the partying venues, it left the alcohol industry still running, hoping that discipline would prevail.

Alcohol and cigarettes are still categorised as essential products together with food by the Ministry of Trade.

Police, who have been given the responsibility of ensuring people maintain social distance, have courtesy of the youth been added another role of breaking up parties and arresting those responsible.

Weekends have proven to be a big headache to the police as people congregate to socialise in various localities.

Some of the areas identified by the Nation as notorious for weekend parties are Ngong Hills, the tea farms of Tigoni in Limuru, Kona Baridi in Kajiado, Paradise Lost, City Park, Freedom Gardens, Arboretum and dams in Ruiru.

Other places include shopping centres like Buru Buru, Donholm and Nairobi West. The Kitengela-Namanga Road, which is known for its scenic views and its addiction to lovers of road trips, is also an emerging hotspot for those who want to party out of town.

300 ARRESTED

Photos from these reckless parties are being shared online through Facebook and Instagram in a complete show of defiance to both the authorities and to a virus that continues to wreak havoc across the world.

In a video that has since gone viral on Twitter, a number of youth who are visibly inebriated are seen inside an ambulance being ferried to an unknown destination.

Emergency Plus Medical Services (E-Plus), a private firm run by Kenya Red Cross, has since reacted to the video, saying the staff responsible for misusing their ambulance will be punished.

“We wish to confirm that preliminary investigations show that in the evening of April 17, an ambulance was deployed for purposes other than provision of pre-hospital services,” said E-Plus Managing Director Susan Ng'ong'a on Saturday.

“We further encourage law enforcement authorities to apply the full extent of the law and hold those culpable responsible,” she said.

In Nairobi alone, police records show that at least 300 people are arrested on any given week while drinking at night since the start of the dusk-to-dawn curfew.

HOTSPOTS

The Interior ministry over the weekend identified eight estates in Nairobi, where the social distancing and curfew rules are being broken the most.

“You can tell the clustered estates, which are now giving us problems, and estates that are likely to become hotspots shortly. All of them have one characteristic, recklessness and disobedience to the guidelines being given by the Ministry of Health,” warned Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i.

The CS named Buru Buru, Kilimani, Lang'ata, Ruai, Kayole, Githurai, Embakasi and Ruaka as the troublesome estates.

On Saturday night, police in Nairobi arrested six people who were having a party at a house in Kileleshwa, Nairobi.

This is after residents of Viraj Villa informed the police of the party that had been going on for hours.

During the same night, police in Donholm arrested a dozen people who had locked themselves inside cars to drink at the shopping centre.

In Nyeri County, three lawmakers were among 17 people arrested during the weekend after police raided a house in King’ong’o, where they had locked themselves inside to drink.

The arrest happened after the public tipped the police that the house had been turned into a bar.

MANDATORY QUARANTINE

Last Sunday, 17 residents of Nyayo Estate in Nairobi were arrested at a birthday party hosted by one of the officials of the estate association.

The previous night, police broke up another party in Ruaka and arrested eight people. And since those arrested cannot be held in cells so as to prevent the spread of coronavirus, officers in charge of police stations have been recommending bail for them.

This is creating a huge challenge to security agencies while at the same time risking the entire Kenyan population.

So bad is the defiance that Regional Commissioner Wilson Njenga is recommending a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those found breaking the social distancing rules. “People don’t want to listen,” he said.

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