NAIROBI, Kenya, May 7- It is a mouse and cat game for Eastleigh residents and security forces enforcing a lock down declared on Wednesday for the next two weeks.
The lockdown was imposed on Wednesday, as COVID-19 cases shot up, raising the national tally to 582. A lockdown was also declared in Old Town region of Mombasa–both considered hotspots.
A spot check by Capital FM news shows that locals, many without masks, were gathered outside their houses, after deserted the streets which were patrolled by security forces.
“It is during Ramadhan, we will need food to break the fast, how will I feed my family?” Mohammed Haji, a father of ten said, flanked by his neighbours.
And he wondered, “why are the rest of the markets like Gikomba operational? Why Eastleigh alone?”
Despite worrying statistics released by the government, Haji does not seem to understnd why Eastleigh was targetted.
By May 7, Eastleigh had more than 60 cases of COVID-19, a similar trend in Old Town in Mombasa where community infections were reported to be high.
“These cases will continue to rise and that is why we decided to declare a cessation of movement in these places,” said Mutahi Kagwe, Health Cabinet Secretary.
Public transport, markets and eateries were ordered closed or suspended in the two areas.
Margaret Nyaboke lives in Shauri Moyo estate but earns her living in one of the shopping malls.
“I am thinking of how I will get to the other side,” she said.
She added, “If the government can give us food, we will stay home. If they don’t, we will defy the orders.”
Hers were more of questions than answers; “how will I feed my children? Where will I get money to buy food?”
And why she admits that “I fear corona” it is the fear of hunger, she said, “that has brought me here.”
Joshua Osimu, a boda boda operator is equally worried.
His operating area is within Eastleigh’s First Avenue- a spot now occupied by armed security officers, enforcing the orders.
“It is us, the poor, that will suffer,” he said.
But Abdul-Aziz Mukhtar, a truck driver and a resident of the area which serves as a business hub for Nairobi, the lockdown is a timely intervention by the government to contain a menace that has claimed 24 lives, including an Imam from Eastleigh said to have had a high contact with people.
“Corona does not respect gender or age, we should all respect the government orders so that we can defeat this disease,” he said.
Wanjiku Muchoki a resident of Eastleigh’s 1st Avenue lauded the government, but is worried about the rate at which people are defying social distancing orders.
“People are ignorant. It is like they don’t know there is corona,” an emotional Muchoki said, “The lockdown should be extended to even one month, provided we have the essential commodities.”
The Interior Ministry has defined the border of Eastleigh from Pumwani Maternity Hospital roundabout and all the way to 1st, 2nd, 3rd Avenue to 17th, 18th and 19th streets.
In Mombasa’s Old Town, the region comprises Mombasa Sub County, Mvita Constituency in Mji wa Kale location and Makadara sub-locations.
Old Town will remain sealed off from North (Mlango wa Papa Road), East (The Indian Ocean), South(Makadara road) and West (Digo road).
Locals in Mombasa have equally protested the curfew, with local leaders saying they were not consulted.
There are reports that many people, mainly the youth relocated as soon as Kagwe declared the cessation of movement on Wednesday evening.
Traders in Mombasa clashed with security forces when they opted to continue with their businesses despite the cessation of movement and an order to close the main market.
“We should have been given enough time to stock our homes. Where do we get food if they close down market? The government should know that we are also in the Holy Month of Ramadhan where we fast and we need food in the evenings,” said Mohammed Ali, the Chairperson of traders at the Mackinnon Market.
Hundreds of police officers were deployed on all roads leading in and out of Old Town area to enforce the government orders.
The officers were deployed along Mlango wa Papa, the Mackinnon Market area, the Baroda area, the Barclays roundabout and Professor Ali Mazrui roads.
However, some shrewd Old Town residents used backstreets to beat the police road blocks.
Residents could be seen using unmanned alleys towards Bondeni area and Kona ya Kilifi to do their business and go back to their homes.