Battered Kenya lifts Covid-19 lockdown, unveils stimulus

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Nairobi, Oct 20, 2021 (AFP) -Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday ordered the immediate lifting of a coronavirus curfew in force since March 2020 and unveiled a stimulus package to try to revitalise the battered economy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the East African powerhouse hard, particularly in the vital tourism sector, and led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Kenyatta announced his decision to end the dusk-to-dawn curfew to cheers and applause at an event to mark Mashujaa Day, a public holiday to honour those who contributed to the country's independence struggle.

"With significant progress registered in the containment of Covid-19, it is now time to shift our focus from survival to co-existing with the disease," he said.

Kenya has reported 252 308 cases of the new coronavirus, including 5 238 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.

But inoculation rates remain low, with only 4.6% of the adult population fully vaccinated, according to the latest government data.

However Kenyatta said the country was on target to meet his goal of vaccinating 10 million people by Christmas, out of a population of almost 54 million.

Currently over 4.6 million people are either fully or partially vaccinated, latest figures show.

Kenya's economy contracted by 0.3% in 2020 — the first contraction in three decades — but the government has forecast a swing back to growth of about 6% this year.

Kenyatta announced a 25-billion shilling ($225 million, 193 million euro) financial stimulus programme from 1 November "designed to accelerate the pace of our economic growth and to sustain the gains already made".

He said a variety of sectors would be targeted, including agriculture — long the backbone of the economy — as well as health, education, drought response, infrastructure, energy and environmental conservation.

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