- They want the government to allow them to operate as they wait for the results.
- Accuse county officials of harassment.
Hotel and restaurant operators in Busia have expressed concern over the delayed release of their Covid-19 test results.
They say their samples were taken by health officials on May 13, but one week later, they have yet to receive results to confirm their Covid-19 status. They said the health officials had told them the results would be out within 24 hours.
On Wednesday, they accused the county health department of frustrating their business through harassment.
They said the officials have been moving around ordering their establishments closed even though most of them have complied with the safety standards outlined by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.
"They move around telling us to close, yet it is the government that is delaying our coronavirus results,” said Derrick Andebesa, an operator in Amagoro town.
“When our samples were taken, we were told they would be ready within 24 hours. We are now counting the seventh day. When they come, they want us to take their orders but they don’t listen to us.”
Among the demands the Health ministry wants the hoteliers to fulfill before being allowed to reopen is undertaking Covid-19 tests to confirm their status. Only those who test negative are allowed to resume business.
They are also required to maintain the social distancing rule by ensuring no customers sit less than 1.5 metres from each other.
Besides, each hotel is mandated to have clean running water for washing hands, sanitiser and soap. It is also mandatory for each establishment to have a thermal gun for testing clients temperatures before being served.
Kagwe, on April 27, said all hotel staff and customers should check their temperatures and anyone whose body warmth goes beyond 37.5 degrees Celcius should not be allowed entry and the premise management should immediately alert the Ministry of Health.
The Busia operators said they have fulfilled all the requirements except that they have not been issued with test certificates.
They pleaded with the government to allow their businesses to run as they wait for the outcome of their tests.
“We have rent to pay at the end of the month and landlords don’t listen to excuses,” said Maryann Wamboi of Malaba town.
“It is not our fault. It is them delaying the results. And they keep harassing us and our staff.”
Luke Ayoyi, who runs a fast-food business in Busia town, told the Star that with delayed release of their test results, the government should cushion them from business shocks that result from its action.
He said most joints are presently not operating, yet they have rent to clear at the end of every month and have families to feed. The government should provide a stipend to struggling businesses to help pay rent, he added.
But when contacted, county public health officer Joseph Oprong told the traders to remain calm, saying the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has no capacity to undertake bulk tests at a time.
“Testing for Covid-19 alone does not allow them to operate. Before they are allowed to reopen, a public health officer must inspect their premises and issue a permit,” Oprong told the Star on the phone.
“Kemri does not have the capacity to test all the samples at a go and first priority is being given to truck drivers and healthcare workers.
“The laboratory in Busia has limited capacity because it can only handle 50 samples and priority is given to healthcare workers. There is no way we will start testing samples from hotel owners and leave out health workers.”
(Edited by F'Orieny)