Countering the third wave: New COVID-19 measures

March 27, 2021 - 5 Minutes Read - By Wanjiku Mwai


On 26th March, 2021, the President of Kenya addressed the Nation on the Covid-19 Pandemic. The last time he addressed the Nation pertaining to the same was on Friday, 12 March 2021. Albeit the norm where the President addresses the Nation after 30 days or 60 days once the Covid-19 measures put in place have lapsed, today the President appeared only after 14 days since his last address.

In his speech, the President indicated that he was compelled by medical and empirical evidence to revise the measures that were put in place on March 12th. As at January 2021, the number of Covid-19 confirmed cases were at 4,380. The numbers have shot to 15,916 confirmed cases by 21st March 2021. While at the end of January 2021 the positivity rate was at 2.6%, by Monday 22nd March, 2021, the positivity rate had increased to 19%. However, experts maintain that the positivity rate is currently settling at 22%.

What does this Mean

Judging on the current positivity rate, it means that if you test 100 Kenyans for COVID today, 20 Kenyans will test positive. It is a major concern because, if the same test was done in January this year, only 2 Kenyans would test positive. It thus confirms that Kenya is facing the third wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Geographical Impact

Nairobi County carries the highest load with 60% of the recorded cases. Easy calculations show that out of every 10 positive cases countrywide, 6 are from Nairobi. This also means that if a random sample of 5 people were tested for Covid-19, 3 have a high chance of testing positive.

Number of Deaths

The death rate has been rising steadily. Between January and February 2021, three (3) people died every day from Covid-19. However, in March 2021, the number has gone up to seven (7) every day, the highest that Kenya has experienced since the pandemic hit.

Health Systems

The pandemic has also not spared the health systems in Kenya. The country has experienced a surge in the number of admissions for Covid-19. Between 12th March and now, 7,630 Kenyans have been admitted in hospitals for Covid-19. However, before then, only 4,990 Kenyans had been admitted. Therefore, it means that in 13 days, the admission rate shot up to 52%.

In January this year, an average of 20 Kenyans in Intensive Care Units (ICU) needed oxygen. In the month of February, the number went up to about 30 persons. Since 12th March, 2021 and today, over 950 Kenyans have been in ICU wards for Covid-19 related complications. Regrettably, this confirms that a third wave is upon Kenya.

DATE 20 March 21 March 22 March 23 March 24 March 25 March 26 March
Per cent 17.6% 14.5% 22% 22.1% 16.5% 16.3% 17.7%
Positive cases 1274 747 1130 1127 1540 1463 2008
Tests per 24 hrs 7240 5145 5119 5393 9348


8976 11360

What’s Next:

The President insisted that the positivity rate is at its highest since the pandemic hit the country. The death rate is also devastating in all measures. Additionally, the Pandemic is placing an immeasurable pressure on Kenya’s health system.  Health experts have pointed out that the third wave gained momentum at the beginning of March 2021 and is expected to peak in the next 30 days with more than 2,500 to 3,000 cases reported daily. The curve is expected to flattened only by Mid-May 2021. Thus the President urged that urgent and radical measures have to be taken to avert a national health crisis.

 New Measures:

To curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the President issued Public Order No.2 of 2021 on the Coronavirus Pandemic which states as follows:

  1. Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru have now been declared disease infected areas.70% of Kenya’s reported cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in these Counties.
  2. There shall be cessation of all movement by road, rail, or air into and out of the disease infected area comprising the Counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru, effective Midnight 26th March 2021.
  3. All public gatherings and in-person meetings of whatever nature are suspended within the Counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru until further notice.
  4. All in-person meetings of the Cabinet and its Committees, with the exception of meetings of the National Security Council are suspended.
  5. The Ordinary Sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate including those of their Committees, and the Ordinary Sessions of the County Assemblies of Nairobi, Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nakuru, are hereby suspended.
  6. International travel into and out of the territory of the Republic shall continue in accordance with the existing guidelines on Foreign/International Travel. All persons coming into Kenya must be in possession of a negative COVID-19 PCR Certificate, acquired no more than 96 hours prior to arrival into the Country; with the PCR Certificate also having been validated under the Trusted Travel platform for those travelling by air.
  7. The hours of the ongoing nationwide curfew are revised to commence at 8:00 pm and end at 4:00 am in the Zoned Area comprising the Counties of Nairobi, Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nakuru. The rest of the country will observe curfew between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. daily, effective tomorrow, Saturday, 27 th day of March, 2021.
  8. Due to abuse of curfew passes and exemptions their role in the steep increase in infections, The Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government jointly with the Ministry of Health are directed to immediately review the protocols for reissuance of curfew passes and exemptions. In that regard, in the intervening period all passes issued are hereby vacated.
  9. All physical / In-person and congregational worship in ALL places of worship in the Counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru stands suspended. The other 42 counties in/person worship and congregational worship shall continue to be conducted in keeping with the one-third rule.
  10. All sporting activities have been suspended. This suspension includes the suspension of operations of sporting and recreational facilities including Members Clubs.
  11. Operation of bars is suspended in the Counties of Nairobi, Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nakuru. Similarly, the sale of alcohol in restaurants and eateries in the 5 Counties is prohibited.
  12. All restaurants and eateries in the Counties of Nairobi, Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nakuru shall provide take away services only.
  13. The operations of bars, restaurants and eateries in the other 42 Counties shall continue as is.
  14. Public Transport Operators are directed to strictly uphold the re-designated 60% carrying capacity.
  15. County Emergency Response Committees are directed to enforce implementation of infection prevention control measures in markets -such as hand washing stations; while also ensuring that all sellers and buyers must be fully masked and maintain physical distance.
  16. All employers and enterprises including public bodies, the private sector, government offices, and others are directed to allow employees to work from home, with the exception of employees working in critical or essential services that cannot be delivered remotely.
  17. The Judiciary, Law Enforcement, Remand and Correctional Facilities, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and other players and stakeholders in the criminal justice and civil justice systems are to take immediate action to eliminate non-essential physical contact within their areas of mandate.
  18. All hospitals are directed to limit the number of visitors for hospitalized patients to two visitors per patient.
  19. All physical meetings or events including social gatherings shall have a cap of no more than15 persons.
  20. Funerals, cremations and other interment ceremonies shall be conducted strictly within 72 hours of confirmation of death. The attendees, officiators, and facilitators of funerals or graveside/cremation ceremonies shall be limited to 50 persons.
  21. The attendees, officiators, and facilitators of weddings, celebrations of marriage or traditional unions, ceremonies of rites of passage, and all other similar events or ceremonies shall be limited to 30 persons.
  22. Political Gatherings remain suspended.
  23. Those above 58 years of age will be given priority during this 1st vaccination phase.


These measures come at a time when the world is working towards recovery from the economic effects caused by the pandemic. They will definitely slow down projected growth in the hospitality, tourism and entertainment sectors. However, Kenya is not the only country imposing a lockdown in 2021. As of 20th March, several European countries were under new COVID lockdown restrictions. On 19th March, 2021 one-third of France’s population was put under lockdown in Paris and several regions in northern and southern parts of the country. Poland, which like Kenya is seeing the highest number of daily cases since November, has announced new measures that have forced non-essential shops and other facilities to close for three weeks. Only food markets are allowed to keep their doors open.

In 2020, similar measures actually helped in slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus as it led to people reducing their one on one interaction with each other. Whilst unpopular due to the economic effects, it is very necessary at this time. As President Uhuru said in his speech, “the curve needs to flatten for any progress to be made.” Hospital isolation units are filling up at an unsustainable rate and bold choices have to be made, however unpopular.

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