As Kenyans thought they were shrugging off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus fastened its firm grip on the east African nation painfully erasing families and confining many in intensive care.
It is against the backdrop of this grim situation that President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 26 reinstated restrictive measures to tame a vicious third wave. The well-intended pronouncements, however, now threaten the livelihoods of citizens who were well on their way to economic recovery.
“The message from the president threw the staff in distress; everyone was concerned about the fate of their jobs, only last year nearly three-quarters of the workforce was out of work for close to five months. The management is yet again with a tough decision to make,” Jane Kombo, assistant manager at a city restaurant, told Xinhua Monday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that Kenya alongside 11 other African countries was experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, attributing the rise to mass gatherings and indifference towards observing public health care measures.
With President Uhuru Kenyatta issuing Public Order number 2 of 2021 on the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, strict measures including cessation of movement by air, rail or road in the five COVID-19 disease infected counties and revised curfew to 8 p.m. have effectively kicked in.
“The new directive spells loss for us because our restaurant is popular for dining in services vis-a-vis take out. On the other hand, we find ourselves with the benefit of experience thanks to last year’s similar directive,” said Kombo.
Similarly, a resort that sits along the busy Outering Road is uncharacteristically unoccupied with only a few people ambling in. The bar area remains shut while three chefs shuffle in the kitchen preparing the last of the stocked foods.
“I have moved from my usual post to wait tables because the waiters were sent home, what we are now doing is serving room guests and a few walk-in customers. Everything fell silent after Friday,” said Titus Were, head of security at Pioneer Kings resort.
“Ken wa manguo” who is referred to by his trade in second-hand clothes said he will now not be able to frequently travel to Kitale in northwest Kenya to oversee his other businesses.
Some Kenyans have faulted the measures for not being accompanied by some form of economic relief. “The government should send us money like it did when it instituted similar measures because our operating time has been interrupted. If they do not do something we shall slip into complete poverty,” said an impassioned Loise Akinyi who sells sweets by the roadside.
After putting in place tough restrictive measures last year, the president offered an economic reprieve — launching a stimulus package worth 53.7 billion shillings (about 492 million U.S. dollars) while also revising down corporate tax and PAYE taxes. Banks restructured loans at the same time mobile transaction charges were reviewed.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed that both strains first reported in Britain and South Africa have been mapped out in the population. Health officials, however, say more investigations are needed to detect the absolute number of variants circulating in the population.
The Ministry of Health on Monday announced that 902 people tested positive for COVID-19 from a sample size of 3,395 tested in the last 24 hours, taking the total confirmed infections to 131,116 with a positivity rate of 26.6 percent.