President Uhuru Kenyatta when he delivered his 13th Presidential address on the Covid-19 pandemic, at State House, Nairobi on November 4, 2020.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta when he delivered his 13th Presidential address on the Covid-19 pandemic, at State House, Nairobi on November 4, 2020.
Image: PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday day issued tough Covid-19 containment measures that will extinguish the usual large Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The President extended the national curfew to January 3, 2021, technically dashing hopes of many revellers who would troop to social joints and worship centres to mark the events.

The revision of curfew hour means at Christians will miss the traditional night vigils to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25 and to usher the 2021 year on December 31, 2020.

To strengthen the fight against Covid-19 amid concerns of widespread laxity and defiance among Kenyans, the President also lengthened the curfew hours and banned all public gatherings and rallies for 60 days.

All Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries were also directed to scale down all in-person engagements and instead engage through virtual means where possible.

The re-imposition of the stricter measures will also slam the brakes on the  Building Bridges Initiative campaigns in what could delay the push to amend the Constitution through a referendum.

The rallies have been blamed for being the Covid-19 ‘super spreaders’.

Deputy President William Ruto who has been on countrywide campaign blitz had on Tuesday anticipated the stringent measures and called off any further rallies until further notice.

The curfew hours will now run from 10pm instead of 11pm until 4am.

The President defended his decision not to lock down the country saying that would hurt the economy and lead to loss of jobs.

“It is our responsibility to make sure we protect ourselves and those that we love. We don’t want to close down, we don’t want to slow down our economy but that will depend on how you taken personal responsibility,” he said.

The President also moved to end anxiety among parents by declaring the resumption of full face-to-face learning in primary and secondary schools would begin in January next year.

This means that apart from the Class 8, Grade 4 classes and the KCSE exam candidates already in schools, the rest of the learners could count the 2020 academic year lost. They will repeat classes next year.

“With respect to the Examination Classes that have already resumed, I hereby order that they continue with their learning and examination preparations under heightened health safety measureswith all other basic learning classes resuming in-person learning in January 2021,” Uhuru said.

To foster preparedness to reopening of all other classes in learning institutions, Uhuru urged MPs to engage the NG-CDF to focus on handwashing pointsface masksgeneral sanitation and physical distancing of students and teachers.

In a delicate balancing act to save the economy, the President spared the closing of bars and restaurants but ordered that they be shuttered by 9pm before curfew hours.

Where there is an upsurge of Covid-19 cases in a specific county, President Kenyatta said the National Government will consult  the county to issue localised lockdowns and movement restrictions as necessary to stem the spread of the disease.

To enhance civic responsibility, the national and county governments resolved that going forwardservices will not be provided to anyone who does not wear a fade mask and abide by the Ministry of Health protocols.

“In that regardI call on the private sector to join the government in the public sensitisation campaign called ‘No mask, no service’ or ‘Bila barakoa, hakuna huduma’,” the President said.

The move is aimed at building personal responsibility.

In a bold admission, the President openly admitted his government and the leadership of the 47 counties are to blame for the surge in Covid-19 infections.

The President owned up to the lack of leadership at both levels of government, saying irresponsibly amongst leaders had triggered the mass infections that have eroded the gains made so far.

Uhuru asked leaders to “choose to take bold decisions, instead of popular decisions, if the latter is good for country.

“We must say the truth. We  failed as leaders. We conducted ourselves as if there was no Corona, We had rallies with crowds wearing no masks or observing the social distancing protocols.”

He went on, “That way we failed and that is why we are where we are. As  leaders, let us do what we tell citizens to observe.”

The President asked the media to play a leading role in the fight against Covid-19 by exposing those violating the safety protocols  without favour or fear.

“Let us come together to fight this disease. The media, you have a duty, expose us and have the responsibility to call us out. We leaders, let us practise what we preach,” the President said.

The President oke after chairing a virtual meeting 6th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the national government and county governments, appeared to blame politicians for dropping the Covid-19 guard.

Politicians have been holding mass rallies across the country since the relaxation of the strict Covid-19 containment measures. leading to a surge in community infections across the country.

But on Wednesday, the President issued a stern warning that both county and national leaders must take personal responsibility and offer leadership in the war on the virus.

He directed the Ministry of Interior to constitute a special enforcement unit for Covid protocols in what could see a return to massive arrests and prosecutions of those found without masks and violating curfew.

“We will take stern action against those who will breach the protocols we have issued regardless of who they are,” Uhuru declared in his 13 National Address on Covid-19.

Earlier while making opening remark during the summit, Uhuru turned up the heat on governors and national government officials for failing to strictly enforce the protocols.

He said that although wearing a face mask in public is now a statutory requirement, the country was facing enforcement challenges across the 47 counties.

“Market places, trading centres and open-air pitches are full of crowds, without masks. If this Summit is a ‘fellowship of truths’, we must admit that there is collective failure in the area of enforcement,” Uhuru said.

He said that while citizens could have succumbed to the fatigue created by the virus, it would be a tragedy if the leaders give in to the weariness as well.

“If the people have backslidden from the resilience they showed us during the first six months of the pandemic, they do not expect the leaders to backslide as well. And if the people have fallen short of giving their best, we the leaders have to give our all,” Uhuru said.

The head of state took a swipe at  law enforcers saying some of them had sought to enrich themselves at roadblocks.

“In some instances, the curfew enforcement points became outlets of corruption and unjust accumulation,” Uhuru said.

In what was seen as a response to claims by Kenyans that the Covid-19 figures were being exaggerated, the President said the government had nothing to hide.

“We are not hiding anything because the biggest responsibility of the government is to protect citizens’ lives. Let us not compare ourselves with others, let us talk about what we are going through,” Uhuru said.

In October only, Kenya had more than 15,000 new cases of Corona infections and approximately 300 deaths, the National Multi-Agency Command Centre on Covid-19 reported.

The Covid positivity rate has also shot up since September when the country reopened, to an average of 16 per cent in October.