Dozens flee Mombasa’s Old Town after cessation of movement order

Police officers guard a street in Old Town. One of the neighborhoods placed under lockdown here in Mombasa due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.Anxiety has gripped the country as the presidents meets governors over a surge in COVID-19 cases COURTESY

Tens of residents in Mombasa’s Old Town area parked their belongings and fled on Wednesday, moments after the health ministry announced a cessation of movement in the area to curb spread of the COVID-19.

During the ministry briefing, Old Town recorded 18 out of the 32 COVID-19 infection cases in Mombasa, and had previously been recording consistently high infection numbers.

Government accused area residents of defiance to safety advise given, and ignoring calls for voluntary testing, leading to the decision on stiffer movement restriction.

Just after health CS Mutahi Kagwe made the announcement, several residents were seen bundling their belongings in vehicles and leaving Old Town before the order took effect at 7pm.

Those who left were quoted saying they were moving to stay with friends and relatives in other areas within Mombasa, raising fears that this migration might lead to further spread of the virus across Mombasa.

Early this week, area residents were seen in videos that circulated on social media, mingling and dining without caution during Iftar, just hours after an angry Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho toured the area and warned them.

Some residents openly disregarded the governor and dared him to have the area locked down if he so wished.

Kagwe’s new order restricts entry and exit from the Old Town for 15 days from Wednesday, and requires closure of all markets and businesses in the area.

Old Town faced the same action as Eastleigh in Nairobi, with reports that there was a similar mass exodus of people from Eastleigh around the same time as Old Town.

Old Town has so far recorded 57 infections while Eastleigh has 68, making them the country’s hot spots for the virus spread. On Wednesday, the country’s infections rate stood at 582 with 26 deaths and 190 recoveries