After about two years of being required to don face masks in public places to curb the spread of Covid-19, Kenyans were officially told Friday that they no longer have to do so.
In Nairobi, some cheered the announcement, but others questioned the timing. Supporters saw it as a relief and a sign that life is returning to normal, while others wondered what they will do now having become used to wearing them every day.
Announcing the end of the mandate Friday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe still recommended that people should continue wearing the masks.
“Police and law enforcement officers should not harass Kenyans who are not wearing face masks in public,” Mr Kagwe said at Afya House in Nairobi.
In the Nairobi city centre, Kenyans who spoke to Nation.Africa had varied opinions on the end of the mask mandate.
“I feel like if you feel safer wearing it, then you should continue to wear it, but if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t have to,” said Susan Kamande, adding that she is fully vaccinated and will continue wearing a mask.
Others were relieved to take off their masks, but said they will still keep one close by just in case they need it.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for, tremendous progress after two long years of fearing what might happen if we did not wear a face mask in public,” said Nicholas Kimeu.
“I have removed mine but it is still in my pocket, you never know. It has just been announced, but if a police officer doesn’t know, what will happen?”
Some people were still wearing their masks as they had not heard the news.
“I have not heard anything. Until I reach home and watch the news, I will keep it on my face,” said Faith Kamayu.
The end of the face mask mandate makes Kenya the first African country to relax this Covid-19 measure.
“Wearing masks in public places is no longer a must but when they are visiting government offices they should wear the masks,” CS Kagwe said.
Asked what prompted the decision, he said the number of people contracting Covid-19 in Kenya had gone down, citing immunity.
“Kenyans are encouraged to wear face masks while attending indoor functions. We should now also see the temperature checks in public places stopped,” he said, adding that all in-person indoor meetings will resume at full capacity.
The government has also done away with quarantining people who test positive for Covid-19.
As a result of the low positivity rate, spectators will be allowed back to sporting activities in venues without masks.
Matatus and buses have also been allowed to resume carrying passengers at full capacity without mask mandates.
“Now I have to remember not to wear my mask as I leave the house. It is something that had become a part of my life. I hope I will remember to leave it in the house in the morning as I leave for work,” said Erick Adanga, who still had his mask on.