NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 18- Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai has defended Saturday night’s action by his officers who blocked roads for several hours to punish motorists who defied the night curfew.
Mutyambai said officers are under firm instructions, countrywide, to strictly enforce the curfew and other COVID-19 regulations.
“I urge members of the public to cooperate with police,” the IG said, “the curfew regulations will be enforced strictly.”
Motorists caught up in the COVID-19 night curfew of 8pm to 4am in Nairobi were on Saturday forced to stay on the road until after 11pm.
In a coordinated operation, police mounted major roadblocks on major roads on Thika Superhighway, Waiyaki Way, Mombasa Road, Jogoo Road, Lang’ata Road among others causing major traffic snarl-ups stretching several kilometers.
Government spokesperson Col Rtd Cyrus Oguna also passed a similar appeal, saying it is the only way the curve will flatten.
“It is important that, as a people, we continue to observe the COVID-19 infection control and containment measures, if we are to quickly flatten the infection curve and have our lives get back to normal,” Oguna said on his official Twitter handle.
“Observing these measures include strictly respecting the curfew time which starts at 8pm for the One Zone and 10pm for the rest of the country. Let this be a collective responsibility. We wish everyone a blessed Sunday,” he said.
The roadblocks mounted at 8pm were only opened up shortly after midnight.
“We will teach you a lesson today,” one policeman was heard saying as quoted by a motorist on Thika Superhighway, “you will stay here until 4am.”
Nairobi is among the five counties clustered as one in the current COVID-19 lockdown declared by President Uhuru Kenyatta last month to contain the spread of the disease.
The action by police sparked outrage among Kenyans on social media who accused the government of being insensitive.
Since the lockdown was declared, motorists have continued to flout the regulations. The other counties affected are Machakos, Nakuru, Kajiado and Kiambu.
In the Saturday night roadblocks mounted in Nairobi, even people categorised as essential workers were not spared.
“We even had an ambulance that was caught up in the melee,” another motorist said, raising serious concerns on the implementation of the curfew regulations.
Amref Health Africa Group Chief Executive Officer Dr Githinji Gitahi condemned the police action, saying “compliance with necessary COVID-19 public health measures is not about torture but national dialogue and community engagement on protecting lives.”
He said enforcing the rules will not in itself curb the spread of the coronavirus disease, which has so far killed 2,463 people.
“Until we have vaccinated a good proportion of our population, COVID-19 infection is not the issue but who needs hospitalization/medical care and can our health system provide it equitably? That means timely adequate surge oxygen, health workers and critical care beds.”
Kenyans on social media criticized the police for the move, saying it was counterproductive.