Kenya has closed its borders with Somalia and Tanzania as the country strives to stem further spread of the coronavirus. In a televised address to the nation on Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was imposing more measures after it emerged that some of the cases had crossed the border from Tanzania and Somalia.
“If we do not take additional precautionary measures and get even more serious in implementing existing guidelines, the number of people who will get sick and die is going to rise sharply,” said President Kenyatta.
The decree, effective Saturday midnight, does not affect cargo vehicles. The move, unprecedented in the history of the East African Community’s 20-year existence, came as Kenya said it had blocked 78 truck drivers from Tanzania from entering the country.
The President also announced that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country had risen to 830 after 49 more people tested positive. Forty-three of those detected this week had crossed the border from the neighbouring countries, according to Kenyatta.
“As of yesterday [Friday], the cases across the border were distributed as follows, Wajir 14, Isebania 10, Namanga 16, Lungalunga 2 and Loitoktok 1,” Kenyatta said, referring to border towns near Tanzania. The decision to block infected Tanzanian truck drivers came as member states in the region struggled to have a common policy on limiting the spread of Covid-19, while allowing free movement of goods. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan belong to EAC. However, during a virtual meeting convened Tuesday by EAC Chairman and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, only Nairobi, Juba and Kampala participated. Tanzania later claimed the meeting was for the Northern Corridor, a reference to countries that mainly import goods through Kenya’s Port of Mombasa. Shutting the border could effectively strengthen those corridor divisions even though Kenya argued it was simply protecting its people. “I know that our economy has taken a big hit, and the sectors that are linked to foreign trade, travel and production are under intense stress…even though the measures we are putting in place are inconvenient to all of us, the far worse outcome is for this pandemic to grow out of control,” added President Kenyatta. Somalia, too, has faced rising cases, blowing from 26 only in mid-April to 1284 by Friday night. Mogadishu has not given the figures on the number of those tested.