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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta loosened infection-control measures Saturday after the number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the country dropped from an early spring surge.
Kenyatta announced in his May Day speech that a nightly curfew was being moved to 10 p.m. following a 72% reduction in new cases. On March 26, the president ordered the year-long curfew to start two hours earlier, at 8 p.m., due to a spike in COVID-19 deaths in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, three urban counties surrounding it and Nakuru, a major transit city.
He also had prohibited travel in and out of the five areas but said Saturday the ban on movement was lifted. Kenyatta said the government also is allowing church services to resume at one-third capacity and restaurants to serve food on their premises instead of only preparing takeout orders.
Sports events will resume under regulations to be issued by the Ministry of Health, he said.
The 8 p.m. curfew had caused a public outcry. Many Kenyans living in the capital leave work at 5 P. M. and it takes them more than three hours to get home due to traffic and a lack of reliable public transportation. Industry associations complained that small business were shutting down as a result of the shorter operating hours.
Kenya’s 7-day rolling average of new confirmed cases more than doubled in March, from 1.02 new cases per 100,000 people on March 11 to 2.29 new cases per 100,000 people on March 25, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s mortality rate quadrupled during the same period, going from a 7-day rolling average of 0.01 deaths per 100,000 people to 0.04 deaths per 100,000.
Kenya, with a population of 53 million, has reported a total of 159,318 confirmed cases and more than 2,700 deaths in the pandemic.
Kenyatta gave his May Day speech during a low-key function at the State House. For the second year running, he did not announce an a minimum wage increase.