Kenya-UK travel ban ‘to bite for short time’

Foreign Affairs PS Ambassador Macharia Kamau.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya and the UK expect business disruption after the travel bans kicked in yesterday, but officials say it may not last long.

And though the bans targeted passenger flights, cargo aircrafts from or to the UK may also be affected as both countries discuss standard protocols to apply to crew.

The assurances came in last evening as the bans took effect, curtailing the usual traffic flow between Nairobi and London.

Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau told the Saturday Nation that he expects the disruption to take “a short time”, especially after Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo and her British counterpart Dominic Raab spoke on phone and agreed to establish an emergency committee to discuss how to handle air traffic in the face of Covid-19.

Flight ban

“We expect to review it [flight ban] as soon as possible. It should be resolved by May or June at the very latest,” he said.

And in an opinion elsewhere in this paper, British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott says they are working closely with Kenyan officials to ensure the restrictions are in place for “a short a time” as possible.

“I recognise the strength of feeling and anger, both at the decision itself, the basis for it, and the timing. Our relationship is a partnership, based on mutual respect and trust, and I know many have felt hurt by this. I understand why. Our governments, our businesses, and above all our peoples, are part of the rich tapestry which makes up our relationship – none of us want to be in this situation,” she says.

Mr Kamau told Citizen TV on Wednesday that the travel ban will have an “impact” especially on business people of both countries who may now have to delay their interactions.

“We would rather have never had this issue come up because we are so positive about the trade relations that we are now building,” he said.

Covid-19 vaccination certificates

Kenya has demanded cargo flight crew bear Covid-19 vaccination certificates, thus, their schedules will also be disrupted because the two countries haven’t agreed on a common standard for certification. In the UK, Covid-19 vaccination cards, which bear the type of vaccine and date and name, have been given to specified categories of people identified for priority vaccination.

Pilots are not among them. In Kenya, those certificates are not yet provided, except for an SMS notification bearing the batch number of the vaccine and dates.

The UK had on April 2 announced all travellers from Kenya will be denied entry on Covid-19 grounds, except if they are citizens or residents of the UK.

Nairobi reacted by banning flights into Kenya, alleging discrimination on the part of the UK. London had said at least 30 per cent of 550 weekly arrivals from Nairobi had tested positive a day after arriving. The UK usually asked arrivals to quarantine in their homes for two weeks. The new decision means those admitted on UK soil must quarantine at own cost. For two weeks, arrivals will pay at least £1,750 to lodge in appointed facilities in the UK.

Ahead of the ban which took effect at midnight on April 9, the last flights by British Airways and Kenya Airways which had increased their scheduled departures had left the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for London.

It is uncertain when other departures like those will take place. But officials suggested it will resume once protocols have been agreed.

One solution to be discussed could be rapid testing at airports as it happens in Ghana. But as both countries haven’t agreed on the model, it could take at least three weeks to be set up, officials said.

Both sides say the mutual ban “is not a reflection of the importance we place on our relationship.”


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