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World News

Kenya announces phased reopening from coronavirus lockdown

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Monday a phased reopening of the country from a COVID-19 lockdown, lifting restrictions on travel in and out of the capital Nairobi and allowing air travel to resume.

FILE PHOTO: A Kenyan Airways plane comes in to land during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

Kenyatta said the country has reached a reasonable level of preparedness for a partial loosening of restrictions but urged caution and warned against reckless behaviour.

“Today I order and direct that the cessation of movement into and out of the Nairobi metropolitan area, Mombasa county and Mandera county that is currently enforced shall lapse today or at 4 a.m. (0100 GMT) tomorrow, Tuesday the 7th of July 2020,” said Kenyatta in a televised address.

Domestic commercial and passenger flights are scheduled to restart on July 15, Kenyatta said, while international travel will resume from Aug. 1

Mosque and churches will be allowed to host services again, but for a maximum of an hour with only 100 worshippers allowed at a time.

Kenya had confirmed nearly 7,900 cases of the coronavirus as of July 6, with 160 deaths, with cases continuing to climb. On Saturday, 389 new infections were reported in the country’s biggest single-day jump.

The outbreak has battered the economy, with the finance ministry projecting growth to slow to 2.5% this year from 5.4% last year, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenyatta said the reopening of the country came with risks, and urged Kenyans to take precautions.

“Although the path to recovery is rocky and uneven, it is navigable,” he said.

He nevertheless extended the current nationwide nightly curfew between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. for a further 30 days. He also warned that should the situation worsen over the next few weeks the country could be locked down again.

“In the next 21 days we shall study patterns of interactions and the spread of the disease. Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to lockdown,” the president said.

“For us to revive the economy, reopen and remain open, the government and all citizens must pull together,” he added.

Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Alex Richardson and Pravin Char

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