Kenya Society demands lifting of Kenya from UK red list

Kenya Society says there is a clear sense that the measures taken against Kenya are disproportionate

In Summary

• Kenya on Friday lifted the travel ban and Covid -19 restrictions for passengers and crew from the United Kingdom.

• The UK is, however, yet to remove Kenya from the red list.

Kenya Airways
Kenya Airways

The Kenya Society in the UK has said the lifting of the ban on UK flights by Nairobi is not enough.

Instead, the society maintains Kenya should be removed from the UK red list and a roadmap put in place to upgrade it to amber and green status.

In a letter seen by the Star by chairman Patrick Orr to UK High Commissioner Jane Marriott, the Kenya Society asks the envoy to urge the British government to conduct an immediate review of Kenya’s red listing status.

“The current measures are negatively impacting on UK-Kenya relations and most of those canvassed feel there is already long-term damage. This is exacerbated by the circulation of data analysis among members calling into question just how significant the number of variant positive UK arrivals were from Kenya around the time when the original decision was taken,” Orr writes.

Kenya on Friday lifted the travel ban and Covid-19 restrictions for passengers and crew from the UK.  The UK is, however, yet to remove Kenya from the red list.

A British High Commission spokesperson said the red list is kept under constant review and they will not hesitate to act when needed.

"We do not provide a running commentary on whether specific countries may be removed or added to the red list," she said.  

The Kenya Society says although the damage has been done, some people feel there is an opportunity for the relationship to be restored through prompt action by the UK government.

“50 per cent of those surveyed are experiencing a negative impact on business. The majority of these (67 per cent) are projecting revenue loss greater than 40 per cent year-on-year for FY21/22. This is having further impacts on conservation and environmental efforts. Most people in our survey are also experiencing a high human cost from this measure,” the letter reads in part.

The leading issues cited are poor mental health, breaking up of family nuclei and disruption to education.

The society says there is a clear sense coming through that the measures taken against Kenya are disproportionate.

“We look forward to your support for positive action by the UK to remove Kenya from the red list and resume the strong strategic partnership between our two countries,” Orr writes.

The UK on April 2 announced that Kenyans or anybody transiting through Kenyan airports was banned from setting foot in the UK starting April 9 citing the South African virus variant.

Kenya responded in kind and placed strict conditions for UK nationals travelling to Kenya.

To deescalate the situation, Kenya and the UK agreed to establish a joint emergency committee to address Covid-19 emergency travel restrictions following talks by Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo and UK counterpart Dominic Raab.

The committee first met on April 15  and was co-chaired by  Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau and Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office Africa Director Irfan Siddiq.

It agreed to form technical groups to address the issues and report back to the main committee “in the next few days”. No progress has been made public since.

The British High Commission spokesperson told the Star the Committee agreed to form technical groups to address the issues and "we continue to engage on the thematic issues on a regular basis”.

A review conducted by Levanter Africa on behalf of the Kenya Society says the rationale for Kenya being on the UK red list doesn’t match the Covid-19 evidence.

“The UK, unfortunately, has struggled more with controlling and managing the effects of the pandemic, but most countries have not imposed travel bans and restrictions for the respect of mutual respect and relations,” the report says.

In its review, Levanter Africa says data from March 26 to 7 April shows of the 1,161 arrivals into England, only 29 tested positive for Covid-19 (2.5 per cent) and not one variant was detected.

“In the two weeks following Kenya’s addition to the red list, of the 694 arrivals, only nine tested positive (1.3 per cent) with, again, zero variants detected. This clearly shows that the “increased risk of importation of variants” was exaggerated and scientifically flawed,” Levanter Africa says.

It further says the lack of subsequent action from the UK indicates the continuation of Kenya sitting on the red list is "exceedingly politically biased", particularly when compared to countries on the UK’s amber and green lists with far worse Covid rates than Kenya.