Kenyan leader eases COVID-19 restrictions amid decline in cases

NAIROBI, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday eased COVID-19 restrictions measures across the country, but extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew period for 60 days to help contain the spread of the virus.

Kenyatta who addressed a national COVID-19 conference in Nairobi adjusted the curfew time from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. until 4 a.m. with effect from Tuesday.

"If we do what is necessary during the next phase of the war against this pandemic, it will lead us to do what is possible. Then cumulatively, our necessary actions (like wearing a face mask) coupled with our possible deeds, will lead us to the impossible outcome of containing this pandemic," he said.

Kenyatta also lifted prohibition against the operation of bars and the prohibition against the sale of alcoholic drinks by ordinary restaurants and eateries across the country.

Kenyatta moved closing time for all bars and restaurants to 10 p.m. from 7 p.m. daily; noting that restaurants will be required to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 containment measures.

Bars and liquor stores were among sectors affected by the COVID-19 restrictions, leading to mass layoffs and spell of unpaid leave.

Kenyatta increased the permitted maximum size of religious gatherings to one-third of its normal sitting capacity; but with strict adherence to all applicable guidelines and protocols issued by the ministry of health.

The number of people attending ceremonies such as funerals and weddings has also been reviewed upwards from 100 people to 200.

"As we progressively de-escalate the containment measures and resume a sense of normalcy on education, our paramount consideration both as a government and as parents is the safety and the well-being of our children," he said.

The Kenyan leader expressed optimism that the fight against the virus had borne fruits but warned against laxity saying:

"If we have won one battle against COVID-19, we have not won the war yet. The possibility of a second wave of this pandemic is real as we have seen in other countries," he said.

The president urged focus on 'how' schools would reopen and not 'when', noting that the conversation on "when" would only be had once the safety of the learners was assured.

"Learning institutions should only be reopened when we have and can sufficiently guarantee the safety of all our children. Let us not focus on when schools will reopen but on how they will reopen," Kenyatta said.

He called on the education ministry to finalize on how schools would re-open safely, saying this would inform the decision on the actual reopening date.

"I call upon the Cabinet Secretary for Education, once we have agreed on the how, he will thereafter issue an academic calendar for the resumption of learning in 2020 or 2021, this will be dependent on what is decided," Kenyatta said.

He said the containment measures put in place in March to stem the spread of COVID-19 have had positive returns in terms of safety and national security.

"In the six months since then, crime has exhibited a 21 percent average decline and traffic accidents have reduced by an average of 10 percent," said Kenyatta.

His remarks came after the ministry of health announced the total number of COVID-19 infections in the country rose to 38,168 after 53 people on Monday tested positive from a sample pool of 1,107.

So far, 24,681 people have recovered while 700 others have succumbed to the deadly virus since the first case was detected in mid-March.

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