Lake region businesses start feeling pinch of revised curfew hours

LREB governors (from left) James Ongwae (Kisii), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Anyang' Nyong'o (Kisumu) during a press briefing on June 22, 2021. Businesses in the lake region have started feeling the pinch of the 7pm curfew and other Covid-19 restrictions imposed on 13 counties last week.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Businesses in the lake region have started feeling the pinch of the 7pm curfew and other Covid-19 restrictions imposed on 13 counties last week.

Among those hit hard are supermarkets, eateries, groceries and small-scale traders. These establishments now close earlier because their employees, along with other residents, must rush home to beat the curfew.

Hotels and conference facilities have also borne the brunt of the disruptions following a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Victor Wambani, the chief executive of the Kakamega chapter of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), said the containment measures announced in the 13 counties in western Kenya and Nyanza had disrupted business activities.

“Supermarkets operate up to 10pm, but the review of the curfew period has badly disrupted their operations and taken a toll on sales,” he said.

The ripple effect on the region’s economy could lead to fresh layoffs in the hospitality industry and the other sectors.

“Given that supermarkets and other businesses are required to pay rent and taxes, the current disruption is a big blow in terms of sales,” he said.

In the matatu industry, operators have reduced the number of passengers they carry, and they said this has cut their daily returns.

Kisumu Matatu Owners Association chairman James Ochieng said the curfew has also cut the number of trips they make on their routes.

Curfew hours were revised

“Businesses are doing badly amid Kisumu’s rising infections. Most matatus are parked at the owners’ door steps,” he said.

However, KNCCI Kisumu branch chairman Israel Agina noted that saving lives is more important than worrying about the disruptions caused by the 7pm curfew.

“We fully support the government directive on containing Covid-19 in Kisumu. We hope, however, the 7pm curfew will not be prolonged beyond one month,” he said.

At the Kakamega County market, traders complained that they must close early, thus losing customers who usually bought their food items after working hours.

Vegetable sellers who usually operate on the streets are feeling the pinch because residents rush to get home before the curfew hour hits.

In Vihiga County, the KNCCI leadership said its members are losing up to half of their usual per-day earnings after curfew hours were revised.

KNCCI branch chairman Billy Nyonje said the business community is counting losses and hurting. He accused the government of failing to consult them before taking the abrupt decision to move the start of the curfew from 10pm to 7pm.

Dr Nyonje described the decision as "unwise", saying it had made their businesses vulnerable.

Most businesses, he said, hit their peak from 4pm to 8pm and wondered why the government decided to cut short their operations.

“The government needed to involve the leadership of the business community before reaching the decision to start curfew early,” he said.

He also protested that police are not available to provide security to business premises after they are closed, leaving them exposed to break-ins and thefts.

Eric Mwachi, a businessman in Mudete township, said he usually closes at 8pm as his business is more active between 6pm and 8pm.

He noted that the new regulations have hit his sales. “I have been forced to close early, before 6pm.”

In Homa Bay, traders selling food items are among business operators incurring losses from the effects of reviewed measures by the Ministry of Health.

For the last five days, traders selling fruits and vegetables, which are highly perishable, have been throwing away some of the farm produce as they spent shorter hours at the market.

Homa Bay County depends on food supplies from counties like Kisii. They are delivered to markets after 10 am.

Homa Bay Giant Traders Association secretary Simon Kwach told the Nation that most traders used to spend at least six hours at markets before Friday last week when the government announced that the curfew would start at 7pm.

Today, he said, traders take less than four hours at the market and that affects their sales.

“Traders used to sell past 8pm before the guidelines for slowing the virus were reviewed. Markets are today open until 6pm, when everyone starts panicking and rushes home,” he said.

“Every morning, you will see huge piles of rotten food in markets. If the curfew time was 10pm like in the past, most businesses would be better,” he said.

Reported by Benson Amadala, Evelyne Mwombe, Elizabeth Ojina, George Odiwuor and Derrick Luvega