Kenyan court charges Catholic priest with spreading coronavirus

Catholic priest Richard Onyango Oduor
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NAIROBI (Reuters) – A Catholic priest was charged in Kenyan court on Thursday with spreading the novel coronavirus, the second person to face such charges in Kenya.

Kenya, which has 234 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 11 deaths, has banned all public gatherings, limited the number of mourners at funerals, imposed a daily curfew and restricted movement in and out of four regions most affected.

Catholic priest Richard Onyango Oduor was charged with having “negligently spread an infectious disease” after authorities said he failed to adhere to coronavirus quarantine rules following a visit to Italy.

He denied the charges in a Nairobi court, and was freed on a 150,000 Kenyan shilling ($1,415) bond. He was ordered to spend another 14 days in quarantine and reappear in court on May 2.

Archbishop Anthony Muheria, in charge of the Catholic dioceses of Nyeri and Kitui, told Reuters he could not comment on the case, and it was up to the authorities to determine whether the priest was at fault.

Last week, another court charged Gideon Saburi, the deputy governor of the coastal region of Kilifi County, with spreading the coronavirus by going out in public without taking precautions. He also denied the charges as was freed on bond while being ordered to self-quarantine. [nL8N2BR4WG]

Some African countries have had trouble persuading citizens to comply with restrictions imposed to curb the virus.

Kenyan media have been awash with stories of people trying to circumvent restrictions, holding parties in their houses and parks due to bar closures. A lawmaker was arrested for holding a party at a restaurant in the capital on Easter weekend.

Last week, some Botswana lawmakers were put in supervised quarantine after failing to observe an instruction to self-isolate. All of the country’s parliamentarians and President Mokgweetsi Masisi were asked to quarantine for 14 days after a health worker screening them tested positive.[nL5N2BX54R]

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa last week put its communications minister on leave for two months, one of which will be unpaid, for breaking the rules of a countrywide lockdown and having lunch with a former official.