Nairobi, Kenya – With limited resources and insufficient beds in intensive care units (ICUs), many African governments are trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as much as possible. In almost all East African countries, cases have been confirmed.
Kenya reported its first death from COVID-19 on Thursday, while the total number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 31. All international flights are suspended, and there is a 9 p.m. curfew. at 7 a.m.
According to the United Nations, the African continent is experiencing an "extremely rapid evolution,quot; of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kenya is known for its matatus: minibuses that often carry more people than they have seats. Vehicles are often used by millions of Kenyans on a daily basis. But amid fears that the informal network could be a weak link in the fight against coronavirus, Kenyan authorities have issued a series of directives for Matatu companies.
All matatus must now provide hand sanitizers for all passengers before entering. Vehicles must be cleaned twice a day and long distance operators must maintain a detailed list of all their passengers. To avoid contamination, Kenyan officials have said the 14-seat matatus will only carry eight passengers, and vehicles carrying more than 30 passengers will carry no more than 60 percent of their capacity.
But with the country not locked up, Kenyans continue to go to work, while many people have jobs that cannot be done from home. For some, a day without work would mean a day without food.
In an interview with the Kenyan newspaper The Star, Transportation Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the Matatu companies must act now. "I have been telling matatu associations that if this hits us hard, there will be no one to take. They must invest themselves to ensure that their business model is sustained," he said.
And so, among many matatu drivers and vendors who are not yet taking precautions, some matatu employees at Nairobi's Westlands matatu terminal wear face masks as they disinfect their buses and clean the hands of their passengers.
"Many people will not be able to afford to go to the hospital. And if they cannot seek medical attention, they will die. We are taking all steps seriously," said one driver.