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From bras to panties, Kenyans innovate face masks as police warns of arrests

Kenyans who cannot afford to buy face masks have resorted to wearing some rather unorthodox masks, including bras and underwear in a bid to protect themselves from contracting coronavirus.

Images and videos have been shared of Kenyans covering their mouths and noses with these ‘masks’.

The public has raised questions about the availability of masks and their affordability.

The cheapest single-use mask costs Sh100 while the most expensive and effective N95 version that medical personnel prefer, ranges between Sh200 and Sh1,500.

A directive by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe requires that face masks should not be sold for more than Sh20, but local manufacturers have taken advantage of the situation to exploit public.

This even as the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai on Tuesday said that from Wednesday police will arrest those found in public without face masks.

Mutyambai on Tuesday said the grace period for adjusting to the regulations given by President Uhuru Kenyatta has expired and that anyone violating them will be taken to court.

At the the weekend, Kagwe gazetted a list of hefty penalties against violators.


“Users of public or private transport and public transport operators shall wear proper masks that must cover the mouth and nose. They should also maintain a physical distance of not less than a metre,” Mr Kagwe said in the Kenya Gazette Supplement No 41.

A person who commits an offence under these rules shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh20,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.

The use of masks has been credited for helping to slow down the spread of the virus in Japan, South Korea, China and parts of Europe.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the droplets emitted by people when coughing, talking or sneezing may contain the virus, which can remain in the air for several hours.

There are growing concerns about the unregulated manner in which masks are being sold, especially by traders and hawkers, who have taken advantage of the growing demand.

Kenyans have been calling on the national and county governments to give them masks for free before the new regulations are implemented.