The Covid-19 outbreak has hit State House hard, forcing President Uhuru Kenyatta to cancel two high-profile diplomatic events – a border security cooperation meeting in Mombasa today (Sunday) and a trip to the Vatican.
President Kenyatta had been expected to travel to the Vatican in Rome, Italy, from March 10 to 14 where it was expected he would have met with Pope Francis. An advance team was already in Rome, Italy, when the trip was called off after Italy decreed a total lockdown due to the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
This would have been the first trip to the Vatican for the President.
A letter seen by the Star Today written by Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Italian Embassy in Nairobi indicated the President would have been in Rome from March 10 to 14. The letter was seeking clearance for the President’s advance team.
The advance team had already left the country on March 2 while another was scheduled to leave on March 6.
Sources indicated the second team did not leave the country and the first one was ordered back after it became increasingly clear that the President’s trip was untenable.
The aborted trip comes at a time Kenya has suspended all travel outside the country unless necessary as well as public gatherings.
Pope Francis himself retreated from public engagements on February 27 in what Vatican termed “slight indisposition”.
He had been seen coughing and sneezing a day after he had hugged pilgrims who throng the Vatican grounds every day.
On Monday this week, Italy, the worst affected country in Europe, ordered a total countrywide lockdown.
The Italian government ordered all its citizens to stay at home as it struggled with the runaway statistics.