Only 8.8% of people have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in Kenya so far.
Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe made the announcement on Sunday. Affected public services include schools, transportation services, immigration, and other government offices, as well as hotels, bars, restaurants, national parks, and wildlife reserves.
The government will launch a 10-day mass vaccination campaign on Friday, Kagwe said.
Vaccine directives have divided public opinion globally. Some politicians and citizens say the measures undermine personal choice and others say they protect the public.
Carol Kariuki, chief executive of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), which claims more than half a million members, told Reuters that the group encouraged all Kenyans to get vaccinated.
“This is not only good for the continuity of business and the economy, but also to protect others,” she said.
But some local business owners said the directive was not practical.
“Who will implement it?” said Franklin Odhiambo, a restaurant owner in Nairobi. “Some of us may want to be consistent, others may not. So this will create unfair competition.”
The decree comes just a month after the government lifted a curfew in place since March 2020.
Amnesty International says Kenya will not be able to vaccinate most of its population by the deadline, so many people may not be able to earn a living, have access to transport or go to school.
Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International’s office in Kenya, said the government’s directive was unrealistic and flawed.
“These regulations will deprive millions of people of their ability to make a living, to have access to security, health and transportation services back and forth from home to work or school,” he told Reuters.
“This way we will not win the fight against Covid-19,” he said, urging the government to work harder to address vaccine reluctance. “What the World Health Organization (WHO) would argue is an important voluntary exercise turns into a coercive exercise.”
Winnie Full shoe seat agreed.
“They should have done a more aggressive vaccination campaign before removing the blockage,” Buong said. “I do not understand why they want to make our lives more difficult.”
Although low compared to western countries, Kenya’s rate of fully vaccinated citizens is higher than the African average below 5%. The WHO says Africa remains at the Covid-19 vaccination rate because of global disparities in vaccine supplies, not because Africans do not want to be vaccinated.
Kenya has reported about 255,000 coronavirus infections and 5,300 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a Reuters tracker.
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