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Coronavirus: Kenya suspends importation of mitumba clothes

March 25th, 2020 2 min read

The government has with immediate effect suspended the importation of second-hand clothes popularly known as mitumba amid coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives said the move aims at safeguarding the health of Kenyans.

Through its official Twitter account, Industrialisation CS Betty Maina said it was intended to cushion Kenyans from the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has sent shock waves around the world.

CS Maina added that the directive would boost the local textile industry which has faced a lot of competition from cheap second-hand clothes imported from Europe, North America, and in China.

“Government has suspended importation of second hand clothes with immediate effect to safeguard the health of Kenyans and promote local textiles in the wake of corona virus,” read the tweet.

Kenyan traders import second-hand clothes and shoes from Europe, Asia and North America for sale in open-air markets or stalls in various parts of the city, but with the virus taking its toll in the countries of origin, people are fearing to buy such items.

New epicentre of the coronavirus

Europe was recently declared as the new epicentre of the coronavirus whose first case was reported in China, a country with over one billion people, but which has now managed to suppress its spread.

Of all the more than 19,000 deaths and cases reported globally, statistics show that Europe has more than the rest of the world combined outside China.

World Health Organisation says coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets (from an infected person sneezing or coughing). It adds that the virus may remain alive for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials, including clothing.

Second hand-clothes take weeks, sometimes months, from countries where they are imported from to Kenya where they are often stored for more days before they are put on sale.

They undergo rigorous processing of sorting and packing and in most cases cleaning. The clothes are usually sprayed before they are shipped.

You are, however, always encouraged to wash the clothes before you wear them.

Their shipment travel through various climatic zones where time, temperatures and humidity are not constant.

As most countries are on lockdown, it is business unusual, meaning shipments, if any, are taking longer than they normally did.

After shipment and clearance into the country, most of the second-hand clothes are sold in open-air markets with low humidity. It is highly unlikely an active virus will still be on the clothes after such a process.

“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes Covid-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is low,” says WHO.

Last week, Nairobi county and Health ministry officials began fumigating Gikomba, Muthurwa and Burma open-air markets to curb the deadly coronavirus spread which has so far infected 25 people in Kenya. No death has been reported so far.