New COVID-19 vaccine rule catches many Kenyans by surprise

PUBLISHED: Fri, 24 Dec 2021 10:00:24 GMT
George Obulutsa
A health-worker talks to civilians before administering the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a makeshift tent as the government orders for proof of vaccination to access public places and transport, in downtown Nairobi, Kenya December 23, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

NAIROBI, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Kenya’s sudden decision to demand proof of vaccination to access public places and transport was met by a combination of bemusement, dismissal and the occasional spot of enforcement on Thursday as people headed home for Christmas.

Bus crews in the capital did not ask for vaccine certificates, but insisted passengers wore masks and sanitised their hands.

“We haven’t reached the stage of asking passengers to prove they are vaccinated. Maybe we may start next year,” said bus driver Peter Wangari.

The announcement late on Wednesday caught many by surprise but comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Test positivity rates on Thursday were 32.5%, compared to 0.7% on Nov. 21 when the edict was announced, the health ministry said.

The ministry had earlier said proof of vaccination would be required by Dec. 21 to access schools, transport, state offices, hotels, bars, restaurants, national parks and wildlife reserves.

But a court then halted the rule amid uncertainty over who would police it or what to do about people unable to access vaccines. The order remains in force despite the latest government announcement.

At the upscale Westgate mall, customers entered freely and only one of its half a dozen restaurants enforced the edict.

Read more: IMF chief says Omicron could dent global economic growth

Eight people stood outside Artcaffe as a woman in a black uniform and a sky blue facemask requested vaccine certificates. Six would-be customers left in frustration. The woman said around half their customers had been turned away.

“We started because the government expects us to do this although we get backlash from our customers who don’t want to show their certificates,” manager Joyce Imbaya told Reuters. “It’s ok, we will lose some customers but in the long term we want our customers to be safe.”

Around 9.2 million Kenyans are vaccinated, of whom 3.7 million are fully vaccinated.

On Thursday around 20 people stood outside a tented vaccination site downtown on Thursday. Many said they already planned to be vaccinated, but a few said they did it to avoid any travel problems.

“Tomorrow, I am travelling home. I was told if I was not going to take the jab, then I’m not going to be allowed to travel,” businessman Peter Juma Amboka told Reuters.

On Thursday the chief of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed concern that holiday travel could fuel the spike.

“The fourth wave, and potentially the fifth wave, is starting just before we go into the holiday season, and that is very concerning,” director John Nkengasong told a briefing.

(Reporting by George Obulutsa, Katharine Houreld; additional reporting by James Macharia Chege in Johannesburg and Monicah Mwangi in Nairobi; editing by Giles Elgood)

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