Kenya extends curfew as Covid cases surge

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Nairobi (AFP)

Kenya said Friday it is extending a nighttime curfew and banning public gatherings to slow the spread of Covid-19, warning that hospitals were becoming overwhelmed.

The East African country has in recent days witnessed a jump in cases from the Delta variant, with a positivity rate of 14 percent as of Friday compared to around seven percent last month.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said the rate was at risk of rising further unless serious measures were taken.

"We continue to implore all Kenyans, including those who have received their Covid-19 vaccines, not to let their guard down," Kagwe said after a meeting of the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus.

"We are all responsible (for) bringing the cases down," he said at a televised press conference.

Kenya has been under some form of curfew since March last year when the pandemic first hit, and Kagwe said it will be extended nationwide from 10 pm to 4 am until further notice.

In total, Kenya has recorded more than 200,000 cases and 3,910 deaths.

Kagwe said at the press conference that hospitals were being put under strain by the increased infections and urged the public to obey the health measures to stay safe.

"If you fall sick today, you will not get a hospital bed," Kagwe said, adding that efforts were being made to increase the number of intensive care beds.

"I am not scaring you, I am telling you the reality."

But the rollout of vaccines has been slow in Kenya, as in many parts of the developing world, partly due to the lack of supply.

As of Thursday only 1.7 million doses had been administered in the country of 52 million people.

Like many of its neighbours, Kenya took swift action against Covid-19 at the onset of the pandemic, restricting movement and closing borders and schools.

But the number of infections has been rising daily as politicians, one year away from a general election, host massive rallies across the country.

Kagwe said all public gatherings were banned and government meetings should be either held virtually or postponed.

Religious gatherings will still be allowed, but limited to a third of the venue's capacity.