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New COVID Restrictions Imposed in Kenya's Lake Basin Region

FILE - A medical team rolls a coronavirus patient from a bed onto a stretcher in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Kenyatta National Hospital, in Nairobi, Kenya, April 14, 2021.

Kenya has imposed restrictions on gatherings and a curfew in the country's western Lake Basin region after a spike in coronavirus infections. Kenya's Ministry of Health declared 13 counties a hotspot zone with 60% of the country's new infections and more than double the average positivity rate.

Evans Ndamwe is a businessman living in Bungoma County, one of the 13 counties where Kenya’s government has introduced new restrictions to combat coronavirus spread.

Ndamwe witnessed police closing the local market, affecting his business.

“Today, Friday, was a market day and police officers dispersed all traders and it has also affected my business. I have not sold anything," said Ndamwe.

Security officers were enforcing government directives banning public gatherings in 13 counties.

The Ministry of Health said Thursday 60 percent of Kenya’s new infections were in the western counties.

It was the first time the government has issued such restrictions in areas far away from Nairobi.

The positivity rate in the western counties is 21 percent, 12 percent more than the national average.

To curb the spread of the virus, the ministry introduced a 7 pm to 4 am curfew and banned public gatherings and non-food markets for 30 days.

Leunora Odinga is a Kisumu resident who lost some relatives to COVID-19. She says the hospitals in her county are overwhelmed with people seeking treatment.

“The health condition is poor here. They don’t have health equipment, they don’t have materials people are suffering," Odinga said. "There is not enough medicine and poverty contributes a lot to the problem because you are told to bring this and that and you don’t have it. There is congestion in the hospitals. People are suffering a great deal.

Odinga says the virus has affected her mental state.

“I am traumatized," Odinga said. "Some of my relatives are visiting me and when you lose a relative, you are also traumatized and if you are so close to them, you might be infected because this virus is hidden and you just find you are also infected. I am seriously affected. I cannot even communicate with my relatives freely."

The current surge in infections in the western region is partly blamed on the national Independence Day event hosted in Kisumu County in early June. Thousands of people were seen running after politicians.

The county health minister, Boaz Otieno, says officials are doing everything they can to improve health facilities.

"What we have done, we mobilized health workers from less congested, less used facilities to the main facilities," said Otieno. "We have enhanced our oxygen capacity to as much as we can and then increased testing is part of that facility but the earlier the test is done, the better for the eventual outcome."

Since March 2020, Kenya has recorded 176,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,400 deaths.