Mass Exodus: Nairobi Residents Flee the Capital

  • Motorists on a Colossal Traffic Jam Along Busy Uhuru Highway in Nairobi
    Traffic jam witnessed along busy Uhuru Highway in Nairobi in 2019
    Simon Kiragu
  • Update: President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday, March 26, directed a cessation of movement by road, rail or air into and out of the disease infected areas that is; Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru.

    The directive will be effected on Friday, March 26, at midnight. He also revised the curfew for the aforementioned areas to start from 8 pm to 4 am and 10 pm to 4 am for the rest of the country. 

    Thousands of Nairobi residents are fleeing the city after the government hinted at tightening Covid-19 measures to curb the third wave of the virus. 

    Speaking to on Thursday, March 25, Brendan Marshall, a traffic educator and coordinator of matatus at several termini in the city said that they had witnessed a rise in numbers of Kenyans leaving the city. 

    "Yes, we have recorded huge traffic of commuters leaving the city and a lesser number of those travelling into Nairobi. The trend indicates that most people are not willing to come back having cited fears of another inter-county lockdown. 

    "At Country Bus Station, Kenyans are leaving the city with their property and household goods. In fact, matatu operators are hiking the fares," Marshall said. 

    Buses and matatus pick up upcountry travellers at Nairobi's famous Machakos country bus station
    Long distance buses at Nairobi's Machakos Country Bus Station in a photo dated November 2017

    This similar trend was witnessed in November 2020 and December 2020, a few days before President Uhuru Kenyatta revised Covid-19 measures during the second Covid-19 wave. Uhuru, however, reduced curfew hours from 9 pm - 5 am to  10 pm - 4 am.

    He also declined to impose lockdowns after lifting them in August 2020. The President has banned the movement in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, and Mandera counties. 

    However, there have been renewed lockdown calls from health experts, clergy, and private sector business people who are wary of the third Covid-19 wave. On Wednesday, March 24, Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi warned that Kenya was reporting a rising trajectory in the daily reported Covid-19 cases. 

    "Nairobi's contribution to the positivity is staggering and stands at close to 57.7 percent and that is very high and disheartening. As we have repeatedly said, it would be irresponsible for us to sit back and watch the situation deteriorate further. 

    "Unless this trend is arrested, we may have no alternative but to take more stringent measures as necessary to protect the lives of our people," Mwangangi said after 1,540 positive Covid-19 cases were recorded with the positivity rate rising to 22.1 percent. As of that day, the country had reported 124, 707 positive cases, 2,066 deaths, and 90,770 recoveries. 

    Transport CS James Macharia added that he was reviewing the measures imposed in the sector with an eye on tightening the restrictions. Macharia warned that he will not only ensure the current measures which include washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and carrying fewer passengers are observed, but also ensure other tough rules are introduced. 

    The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and the clergy have asked President Uhuru to impose tight measures after the health experts noted that hospitals are congested and have run out of ICU beds.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the nation from State House on Friday, March 12.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the nation from State House on Friday, March 12.

    KEPSA wants Uhuru to adjust the curfew hours from the current 10 pm to 9 pm in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases in the country. The curfew, they proposed, should be between 9 am and 4 pm. 

    It further urged the President to restrict all social gatherings including the upcoming celebrations to mark the Idd and Easter holidays. They asked Uhuru to limit the number of people attending funerals to below 15, reduce the number of people attending the physical meeting as well as policing the borders to minimize cross border spread. 

    "Some officials in government say these requests may prompt an earlier Presidential address in which Covid-19 restrictions may be tightened," insiders noted. 

    On March 12, Uhuru extended the nationwide curfew by 60 more days from March 12 to May 12, 2021. He also directed that all bars and social areas be closed by 9 pm. 

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