By Jesse Masai

A July 23 pastoral message from the Anglican Church of Kenya’s bishops may have jolted the East African nation’s government to tighten COVID-19 protocols in response to rising infection rates. In a statement issued after a joint meeting in Nairobi, the bishops urged increased funding for vaccination and closer compliance with public gathering restrictions.

In a July 30 national address, Cabinet Secretary for Health Services Mr. Mutahi Kagwe announced that curfew hours will continue from 10:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. amidst rising cases of COVID-19 infections countrywide.  The country recorded 1,259 new cases on July 31 from 8,081 tests carried out, against a positivity rate of 15.6 per cent.

Mr. Kagwe warned that due to increased infections, public gatherings and in-person meetings are suspended while places of worship will allow only a third of their capacity with one-metre social distancing, among other measures.

“Seek medical attention from qualified healthcare workers,” Kagwe said, warning against over-the-counter self-medication.

Speaking at the All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi, the bishops had expressed concern that politicians were refusing “to adhere to guidelines leading to further spread of the virus during their meet-the-people tours” ahead of the country’s General Election, which is scheduled for Tuesday August 9, 2022.

They also urged the government to make mass vaccination more of a priority, saying that “this is the sure way of reducing the risk from COVID-19 and ensuring that the economy is opened up quickly and Kenyans, whose source of income was adversely affected, can reconstruct their lives.”

They added: “We also urge the government to allow churches to open up for services since all through they have observed the (existing) guidelines. We affirm that our churches have the capacity to operate in strict compliance with the health protocol and guidelines. We also commit to encourage our congregations to go for vaccination.”

They praised the government for enabling distribution of life-saving Anti Retro-Viral drugs to health facilities across the country through the ecumenical organization, Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS).

However, the bishops questioned the Kenyan government’s plan to allow universal access to sexual and reproductive health services as part of its reform of its National Hospital Insurance Fund, noting that “the content of this agreement and proposed bills are inconsistent with the doctrine of the Church as they erode family values. We therefore urge the government not to sign or introduce such bills before proper consultations and public participation.”

Kenya’s total confirmed positive COVID cases now stand at 203,213 and cumulative tests so far conducted are 2,132,355. Cumulative fatalities stand at 3,931, with total recoveries at 188,936.

1,723,727 people had been vaccinated as August 2, with 1,062,413 having received their initial doses of AstraZeneca, while 661,314 have been fully vaccinated. Kenya is expecting to receive 1,760,000 doses of Pfizer from the United States’ government this month in a boost to the ongoing vaccination campaign.

Jesse Masai is a freelance journalist based in Limuru, Kenya.