Easter this year is bound to be a dull quiet affair without much in the way of celebration. The roads remain a lot quieter this weekend, with millions of people within the Nairobi metropolis locked up following Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Nairobi and neighbouring counties of Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos, and Nakuru, are now considered a red zone, under a zonal lockdown with churches, schools, bars and eateries closed — limiting restaurants to take-away service only — as a deadly third wave of Covid-19 surged in the country.
The presidential edict also called for decongestion of working places and suspension of non-essential government services as the government ramped up efforts to stem a steady rise in infections. Health officials warn that the situation is deteriorating as new, highly contagious virus variants gain ground.
President Uhuru Kenyatta barred all movement by road, rail, or air into and out of the zoned area, the general idea being for residents to stay local. He also issued “stay home” restrictions asking employers to immediately put in place mechanism for staff to work from home.
This is the second time Kenyans will celebrate Easter on lockdown since the pandemic began a year ago.
The new decree meant churchgoers could not celebrate Palm Sunday — the Sunday before Easter or perform Mass commemorative of Holy Week activities within the Nairobi metropolis. There were no crowds waving palm fronds to help connect with the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry riding a donkey into Jerusalem as biblical throngs laid palm branches and their cloaks across the road, to give Jesus royal treatment.
The Holy Week, too, goes unmarked except for sermons streamed on radio stations in these seven days of religious significance in Christendom, preceding Jesus’ final journey before his death.
Further within the zoned off area there will be no leisure trip by car outside the zone for the traditional Christian holiday weekend
Fears that the lockdown could spark indoor Easter parties are, however, aplenty as government issued further warning against such get-togethers, what with eateries and pubs closed within the Nairobi metropolitan region. The government has warned the public against peer pressure to break Covid-19 rules.
As early as Monday, most countryside roads were empty a day after the government allowed Kenyans a two-day window (Saturday and Sunday), to travel in and out of the larger Nairobi.
It will be the second year in a row the country has adapted a Covid-19 compliant Easter, after last year’s celebrations were also dampened by the pandemic.
“I had planned to take my baby on her maiden trip to the coast this Easter, but even before the restrictions I sensed when the numbers started rising two weeks ago, that as a household we had to restrict our movements. So, we will keep in doors,” said Ann Njeri in Nairobi.
Richard Ndwiga, a rice wholesaler in Mwea, Kirinyaga County said roads were empty as early as Monday. “The roads have been empty of traffic today and that seems like it is going to be the trend for the week ahead of the holidays.”
Although life outside the Nairobi metropolis continues on formerly constituted restrictions with bars and eateries remaining open until 9pm, and churches conducting business under the social distancing protocol that have existed since the relaxing of the previous national lockdown, Kenyans generally have been asked to observe strict measures to tame the spread of the virus.
“As a devout Catholic I will observe Easter in church but remain vigilant,” said Francis Wambugu in Mombasa.