NAIROBI - Kenya has closed two neighborhoods — one in the capital, Nairobi, and the other in the coastal city of Mombasa — after a surge in confirmed cases of coronavirus. Kenyan authorities have confirmed 607 infections and 29 deaths, with dozens of the infections found in Nairobi's Eastleigh area and Mombasa's Old Town. Many of the neighborhood residents fled as lockdowns were announced.
From Burhan Iman’s hotel window, he saw a journalist setting up his equipment for interviews on Thursday morning. Shortly afterward, he says a crowd gathered. Everyone wanted to be interviewed. They wanted to ask why the government has stopped movement in and out Eastleigh, a neighborhood in the east of Nairobi’s central district.
Some of those engaging the journalist, just like Iman, were stranded overnight in Eastleigh after the government announced that it was sealing off the neighborhood for 15 days after dozens of coronavirus cases were recorded in the area.
“We did not get prior notice, we were ambushed. I wish they could have given notice, tell them prior that they were going to put a lockdown in place so that people who are not from Eastleigh could get time to get out of Eastleigh," he said.
Iman, who works in Eastleigh but lives in Nairobi’s South C estate, was shopping for his wedding with his fiancé, when the area was cordoned off.
He says many people have been trying to flee Eastleigh, either on foot or by car. But Kenyan Ministry of Health official Dr. Rashid Arman warned that those leaving the area are making the coronavrius problem worse.
“We have observed that arising from the directives, some people have decided to sneak out of these areas and to relocate to the neighboring estates," he said. "Let me caution that this move is counterproductive and dangerous. This is because if you happen to be infected unknowingly then you have just transferred the problem to another area.”
In Old Town Mombasa, 59-year-old Mahmud Garwan woke up Thursday morning to get some breakfast at a local supermarket. It was closed. He was told most employees were not able to report to work as most live outside the area.
Garwan, who runs an insurance firm in Mombasa’s city center, says that he could also not go to work because of travel restrictions.
“If we had been given about three days’ notice, then at least we could have stocked up but then on the other hand its ok, since we are allowed to move around the area. It’s a containment measure, but it came as a surprise," he said.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health announced that it had identified certain areas, including Old Town and Eastleigh, as potential hot spots for the coronavirus.
Last week, the ministry began mass testing in high-risk areas, and the tests have increased the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Kenya.
In an effort to encourage more volunteer testing, the government on Wednesday announced that it would pay quarantine costs for those in government isolation facilities.