New national COVID preventative measures, such as proof of vaccination, have prompted anger in Kenya, where fewer than 5% of the country’s citizens have been vaccinated, and which has recorded more than 254,700 cases and 5,328 deaths from coronavirus.
From next month, proof of vaccination will be required before entry to numerous businesses, restaurants and government offices, said Mutahi Kagwe, cabinet secretary for health, adding that he hoped the new rules would result in more people getting their jabs.
A New York Times reports says Kagwe is concerned about the slow pace of vaccinations, and with the country heading into the festive season, is worried about complacency related to public health measures, including social distancing and wearing masks.
However, there’s been an outcry over the announcement, and criticism from lawyers, activists and the public, who have warned that a stringent vaccine mandate only weeks after the lifting of a longstanding night curfew that suppressed economic activity is “unconstitutional”.
Waikwa Wanyoike, a prominent constitutional lawyer, said using “threats” to get more people to get inoculated would only create more apprehension about vaccines.
Kenya hopes to vaccinate at least 30m people before the end of 2022, but like many African countries, it has also struggled to gain access to vaccines. Vaccination campaigns have been hampered by a lack of funding; there have been few awareness campaigns and nor are there widespread vaccination sites. Authorities have also battled to obtain the cold storage facilities needed to store the shots, adds the New York Times.
The new rules will also extend to those planning to visit hospitals, prisons, bars, national parks and any business serving 50 or more people daily. Drivers of public transportation will be expected to carry proof of vaccination and visitors from Europe have to be fully vaccinated before entering the country.
The rules are the most expansive introduced on the continent yet, says Dr Githinji Gitahi, who serves on the governing board of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC). Zimbabwe has mandated that civil servants get shots and requires congregants at places of worship to produce proof of vaccination. Uganda requires all teachers and healthcare workers to be vaccinated while Namibia has flouted the idea.
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