Optimism as country inches towards reopening of economy

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the Nation on Covid-19 pandemic from State House, Nairobi in July.

Photo credit: File | PSCU

What you need to know:

  • Other restrictions, which are expected to be eased include the time and number of people who can gather in religious or cultural events.
  • The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and funerals is set to be reviewed upwards from the current 100.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is tomorrow expected to address the nation on how his administration plans to re-open the country amid wide expectations that health and security restrictions instituted in March to fight Covid-19 will be greatly de-escalated.

The President’s address will come on the backdrop of a national Covid-19 conference where various stakeholders will give their views on the lessons learnt in fighting the virus that can be used to move the country forward.

After six months of fighting an unseen enemy that has ravaged both the lives and livelihoods of Kenyans, many are asking what policies the government will put in place to aid the country to adapt to a new normal.

While re-opening the Nyayo Stadium yesterday after undergoing renovations, President Kenyatta gave yet another hint that the country had adopted to living with Covid-19 and was ready to be re-opened.

“In these challenging times, the resumption of sporting events is a proof of our adaptation to the new normal,” said Mr Kenyatta earlier.

“Sporting events that will be held as we gradually re-open the country will be conducted in strict adherence to all applicable protocols to ensure that our sportspersons, coaches, media and spectators are kept healthy.”

Full re-opening

Gauging from conversations on social media like it has happened before whenever the President is about to address the nation on coronavirus, the public mood is that the country should be re-opened fully.

On Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta who has been in Mombasa flew to Nairobi straight into a series of meetings with his advisers, experts and senior government officials to discuss Kenya’s preparedness for a full re-opening.

His first meeting was with the Inter-Faith Council in the presence of among others Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i.

The President was briefed on the preparations made by the council to pave the way for further easing of restrictions on religious gatherings.

Consultations within the President’s circle are supposed to continue throughout the weekend in the run-up to tomorrow’s national conference on Covid 19.

And while it is widely expected that President Kenyatta will re-open the country, teams of experts and stakeholders from various sectors were by yesterday still said to be fine-tuning proposals that will get the final nod tomorrow on the extent to which measures will be put in place to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

Additionally, the head of state is expected to tell Kenyans how his government plans to revive the economy with analysts predicting it could hit the reverse button unless the flow of people, goods and services is resumed as soon as possible.

All this will, however, depends on whether the President is satisfied with the recommendations he will get on the preparedness for a full re-opening. Sources close to the presidency have told the Sunday Nation that the government has chosen to stick to a gradual re-opening.

The dusk-to-dawn curfew together with the limitation of movement from certain high-risk counties, which was late removed have been the hallmark of the several mitigating measures put in place by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

While it has been largely agreed that the nighttime curfew is removed, sporting activities and learning in schools should resume, proposals on allowing the sale of alcohol are yet to be agreed upon with some top officials pushing for an extension of the ban in drinking in bars and nightclubs.

The mandatory wearing of masks in public places and social distancing in public areas are expected to remain. Restaurants too will still enforce social distancing and so are stadiums when sporting activities resume, according to sources who spoke to the Sunday Nation in confidence.

The first sporting event in the country since March took place on Saturday when President Kenyatta shot the starting pistol for a 400-metre women’s race at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi. Mary Moraa won the race. The same stadium will next week host 30 countries for the World Athletics continental gold tour final leg.

Other restrictions, which are expected to be eased include the time and number of people who can gather in religious or cultural events. The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and funerals is set to be reviewed upwards from the current 100.

Those present will however be expected to wear masks at all times. It has still not been agreed whether the government will remove social distancing rules in public service vehicles, allow the return of entertainment events, reopen bars and let them operate round the clock.

Bar owners were last month asked to develop self-regulating mechanisms in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in preparation for their resumption. Operators were asked to assemble all the necessary equipment and implement appropriate social distancing as required by the Ministry of Health like setting up hand sanitisation points and reducing the number of seats.

Two bars — Sabina Joy and Green Bar in Nairobi — were selected by the government for the purposes of piloting in a bid to assess readiness and reactions of people once entertainment joints reopen.

‘Raising the Bar’

The two have been with the help of East African Breweries Limited running simulations that are expected to be adopted by other bars in case the government decides to let entertainment joints reopen.

The project known as ‘Raising the Bar’ is aimed at getting bars and restaurants back on their feet once they are allowed to operate. According to operators, the entertainment industry has been losing Sh6 billion monthly since the start of government restrictions meant to fight Covid-19, with thousands of job losses in the entire ecosystem.

While the true cost of the pandemic may take several months to be known, every new set of statistics released shows that it will take a considerable effort to mitigate the effects of the measures put in place by the government in the last six months.

On Friday the Federation of Kenyan Employers said that 8.3 per cent of salaried people have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic in March.