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Nairobi residents left stranded after curfew blockade

Thousands of residents in Nairobi were left stranded on Saturday night after a night operation by Police aimed at enforcing the night curfew left thousands stranded, among them essential service providers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently imposed a 8pm to 4am curfew on residents of Nairobi, Nakuru, Kajiado, Kiambu, and Machakos in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19, and uniformed police officers appeared determined to enforce the same, blocking major highways within the capital at 8pm and insisting that they would not allow motorists head home until 4am Sunday.

The most affected routes were Waiyaki Way, Lang’ata road, and Ngong road with the worst hit being motorists plying along the Thika Super Highway.

As a result, Kenyans showed their frustrations on social media, now a powerful tool for agitation, to call out the law enforcers while displaying the mess as it happened.

YouTuber Diana Marua saying, “They have said we shall spend the night on the road till 4am. The cars are not moving on either side and there’s an ambulance with a patient here, who will also have to wait. This is just before Mountain Mall.”

Experts like Amref Health Africa Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Githinji Gitahi weighed in the conversation calling for a change of approach, in efforts to contain the pandemic.

“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.”

Among the thousands of motorists who stranded before the roadblocks were unmounted at around 11:30pm include essential service providers including medical officers.

Women and children, some unwell, were also caught up in the melee.

The curfew exemption covers medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, national security officers, licensed media houses, the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Kenya Civil Aviation, the Kenya Airport Authority, power production companies, among others.

Media Council of Kenya Programme Coordinator Victor Bwire said, “we should not militarize a public health issue.”

Several videos posted online showed gridlocks on all lanes from the central business district. There were no vehicles on the lanes from the CBD but they had also been blocked.

The temporary roadblocks were also mounted at Kayole Junction, Wilson Airport, Lang’ata Road, Mwiki, Kasarani, Junction Mall, Coptic Hospital, Arboretum, Ruai, Utawala, Two Rivers and at Kenyatta University Hospital.

And the government has appeared to defend the move on Sunday with the spokesman Cyrus Oguna urging Kenyans to go home early so as not to be caught in similar confusion.

“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,” he said.