Kenyans will be barred from bars, restaurants and public transport from 21 December if they are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe says.
The measures are aimed at increasing the rate of vaccinations ahead of the festive season.
Less than 10% of the population is currently vaccinated – about 6.4 million people.
This gives more 20 million adults in Kenya just a month to get vaccinated.
The AstraZenaca vaccines is the most commonly used vaccine in Kenya and the two doses required to be fully vaccinated are supposed to be given at least six weeks apart.
Mr Kagwe did not explain how these hurdles would be overcome but did say that a 10-day vaccination campaign would begin from 26 November and hoped to vaccinate 10 million people by the end of December. Kenya’s total population is about 50 million, at least 40% of whom are children.
Despite the concerns that some African countries have a shortage of vaccines, the Kenyan government is confident that it has enough for its inoculation campaign.
It has so far administered only 6.4 million jabs out of the 10.7 million it has received.
It is expecting a further eight million doses.
In a statement, Mr Kagwe said Kenya had seen a decline in Covid cases over the last two months, with a positivity rate over the last 14 days ranging from 0.8% to 2.6%.
“The current decline in the number of new infections may be attributed to a build-up of immunity both through natural exposure to the disease and the ongoing vaccination exercise. Nonetheless we know that it’s not yet time to celebrate.
“We know that during the festive periods many of the known measures against the virus such as social distancing can easily get overlooked as people make merry,” Mr Kagwe added.
Day trip to get a jab
From 21 December, people would have to be fully vaccinated to use public transport – including buses and domestic flights – or to enter hotels, bars, restaurants and game reserves, Mr Kagwe added.
The same rule would apply to hospital and prison visits, as well as to government buildings for education, immigration and tax purposes, he said.
However, Mr Kagwe was also quoted as saying that the measures may not always be strictly enforced.
“We have given time for Kenyans to get the vaccine by December 21. As much as we will enforce these measures, accountability on implementing these measures will lie on individuals,” Mr Kagwe was quoted by the local Standard newspaper as saying.
From Tuesday, people over the age of 15 will be able to get a Pfizer jab.
Over the last few months, vaccination centres have been set up at bus stops and shopping malls to boost inoculation rates in urban areas, but in rural areas people still have to travel long distances to be jabbed.
“It will take me a whole day to go to the health centre to get the jab and come back home,” said a woman in Kabartonjo, a village which is about a seven-hour drive from the capital Nairobi.
“That means I have to close my stall where I sell vegetables and raw honey for the whole day. What will my children eat at the end of the day?” she told the BBC.
Vaccine hesitancy is also a major problem across Kenya.
“Why don’t they want to also address the fact that there are some perfectly healthy people who died after taking the vaccine?” another woman asked.
Health experts say the jabs significantly reduce the chances of a person getting infected or becoming seriously ill and that the risk of dying from any of the approved vaccines is extremely low.