Alcoblow fails Covid-19 test

A man takes an alcoblow test administered by NTSA officers in Kisumu. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • More than 60 people lost their lives on the first weekend of the return of Kenya’s rich — but oftentimes carefree — night life.
  • On the roads, NTSA officers were nowhere in sight while police officers continued with the trend in recent days of staying off the major roads.
  • In fact, all major roads in Nairobi had minimal police presence, even after the 11pm start of curfew.

Concerns over the risk of spreading coronavirus through alcoblow forced the government to make a last-minute about-turn that saw the gadgets fail to make their dreaded return to Kenyan roads.

The gadgets were pulled off the roads in December last year on concerns that police officers had made them money-minting machines,  and since then police officers have struggled to pin down drink-driving suspects.

Although the closure of bars since March has for the last six months largely kept drunk drivers off the roads, it took just one weekend of open season and flowing beer for the authorities notice a spike in road accidents.

More than 60 people lost their lives on the first weekend of the return of Kenya’s rich — but oftentimes carefree — night life. Consequently, last Friday the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and the National Police Service warned that the breathalysers would be reintroduced.

Still-born

A spot-check by the Sunday Nation throughout the week however revealed that the warning was still-born. In fact, all major roads in Nairobi had minimal police presence, even after the 11pm start of curfew.

Night clubs have been in booming business since the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, with some of them remaining defiantly open way past 11pm. According to the current Covid-19 guidelines, bars should shut down at 10 pm.

On the roads, NTSA officers were nowhere in sight while police officers continued with the trend in recent days of staying off the major roads. Apart from a police barrier next to Kabete Police Station along Waiyaki Way, there was no roadblock in sight on the rest of the major roads in the capital for most of the week.

Alarming accidents

While there have been no alarming accidents this week due to drink-driving, a senior Nairobi city official was charged on Monday for causing the death of two family members along Thika Road.

Mr Alex Mucheru, who works in the Public Health Department, is said to have been driving while drunk when his black Toyota Harrier rammed a Toyota Probox that had slowed down at a speed bump near La Mada Hotel.

David Odhiambo, 24, died on the spot after the accident last weekend. His brother Kevin Ochieng, 20, died while undergoing treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital. Mr Mucheru has been out on bond pending investigations.

Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai now says alcohol tests will be random for all drivers going forward, “mainly because there has been a rise in the number of fatal accidents related to drink-driving”.

“Alcohol levels in the bloodstream will be determined by doctors in hospitals under strict Covid-19 rules,” said the IG.

The Sunday Nation understands that the IG’s turnaround on the matter is because health officials have raised an alarm on the risk of having several people blow into a single gadget in order to ascertain whether they are drunk.

The Ministry of Health had questioned how the police would measure whether someone is drunk in the coronavirus era by making them breathe into a common gadget without risking the spread of Covid-19.

Additionally, with the holding of people in cells currently disallowed, police would struggle to safely hold suspects until they are arraigned.

vachuka@ke.nationmedia.com