REOPENING

Curfew could end in a month, Balala hints

The government on Monday extended Covid-19 containment measures for another 30 days.

In Summary

•The government is balancing between full re-opening of the economy and containing the coronavirus which has hit global economies hard.

•Kenya has had its fare share of the pendemic's impact where economic growth shrunk to -0.3 per cent last year, with travel and tourism being the most hit.

A deserted street in Umoja, Nairobi, during curfew hours/
A deserted street in Umoja, Nairobi, during curfew hours/

The nationwide curfew in place since March 2020, could finally be lifted with in a month's time, Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala has hinted.

“We are optimistic...in a months time or so we will be able to open up,” he said at a media forum on the Magical Kenya Travel Expo. 

This, as the government balances between full re-opening of the economy and containing the Covid-19 pandemic that has greatly affected global economies.

The minister said the country's ongoing vaccination programme is key in the re-opening, and will also boost the confidence of international visitors.

Kenya's economic growth shrunk to -0.3 per cent last year, from a growth of about five per cent in 2019 as a result of the pandemic.

According to government data collected in collaboration with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, travel and tourism was the most hit last year where about 3.1 million jobs were affected.

This includes hotel employees, pubs and restaurants, tour operators, airlines, travel agents and their related suppliers and support services, a time when international travel came to a near stop costing Kenya a loss of about Sh130.9 billion in potential tourism revenues.

While majority Kenyans and tourism players had hoped the curfew rule could be reviewed this month, the government extended Covid-19 containment measures for another 30 days.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on Monday said the country is yet to hit the World Health Organisation recommended positivity rate of five per cent for a consistent period of 14 days.

"The containment measures including the curfew hours of 10 pm to 4 am will remain there and this is for two reasons... number one is that as far as the positivity rate is concerned, we are still above the WHO recommended figures in terms of two weeks period when you have got less than five per cent of positivity rate at a high testing level," Kagwe said.

He said the country needs the 30 days extension to allow vaccination of as many people as possible.

Balala said discussions are ongoing between relevant ministries to bring the curfew to an end and open up the economy.

He however noted that the entertainment sector and other crowd pulling events must be well managed to avoid being super spreaders of the virus.

A spike in infections could lead to a further review of containment measures, including strict curfew hours and restricted movement as seen before.

Balala said the government is targeting to have at least 10 million people vaccinated by December, a move that will support the re-opening efforts.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers(KAHC) on Tuesday called for a review of the curfew.

We need to relax the curfew rules and have a vaccination policy for external visitors if we are going to realise real change in numbers,” CEO Mike Macharia told the Star on telephone.