Kenya: Bodabodas, Security Guards and Others Ignore Health Guidelines

A sense of normality is wafting through downtown Nairobi. It's 11am but there's still a four-lane traffic snarl-up as you get to the last roundabout into the city centre through Thika Road.

Bodaboda riders are lining up in every exit at Khoja roundabout bus terminal, squeezing next to one another.

Only a handful have face masks. The rest prefer to have their chins and beards wear them.

A visibly exhausted traffic police officer yawns as he lazily waves at motorists to drive on.

Across the street, motorists are struggling to find parking space. Almost every slot is taken up.

Most shops are open. The only difference between today and three months ago is the permanent washing points at every entrance.

A guard at one of the buildings next to Roast House waves a tenant in with a smile. He does not have to wash his hands.

But he stops us, since we are visitors and asks us to wash our hands. Our protests on why he is selective in his duties fall on deaf ears.

He brushes us off, saying, the person in front works there and has just returned, having left some minutes ago.

"That is why he doesn't have to clean his hands," the guard says.

Most streets in the city centre are busy. Traffic lights are back as well. The empty shops are open.

Tom Mboya Street and Moi Avenue are as busy as they were before the pandemic struck.

As we join Ngong Road, it is clear the city is back to normal, way ahead of a decision by the government.

Save for face masks, almost everything is as it used to be in March.

Only the middle class and blue chip company employees are still working from home, it appears.

In some markets like Wangige in Kiambu County -- which supplies Nairobi with eggs and vegetables -- social distancing is alien.

Traders sit next to one another selling their wares undisturbed by the coronavirus threat.

Several delivery trucks are packed outside Yaya Centre, waiting for their turn to be allowed in.

Roadside wheelbarrow vendors are back with their inviting ripe sweet bananas, pawpaws, watermelon, apples and other fruits.

With worldwide Covid-19 deaths hitting 348,000 this week and no vaccine in sight despite numerous trials, many countries are coming to the realisation that the disease will linger around for longer than previously anticipated.

Many ordinary Kenyans now say the country will have to find a way of living with Covid-19.

Ole Sereni, a four-star hotel bordering Nairobi National Park, has introduced social distancing conferencing in which seats are about two metres apart in all directions.

"Life imposes things on you that you cannot control, but you still have the choice of how to live through this," the hotel tweeted.

The conferences will go on, but the rooms will have fewer guests at a time.

Hotels in Eastlands are doing all they can to remain open.

Water tanks or buckets are at the entrances of these eateries, with soap and sanitiser provided for use by customers before they get in.

Some are encouraging the increasing number of customers to take away food and avoid congestion.

Barber shops and salons have not been left behind with new practices.

Many have come under pressure from clients to broaden space inside and enhance hygiene.

Ms Eunice Sarlo, the owner of a salon in Nyayo estate, Embakasi, says she leaves work as early as 4pm.

She used to close business at 11pm before the pandemic.

"I used to open my shop at 6am and was busy until 11pm. I now get just two or three customers a day. There are other days that I don't even work," she says.

Customers demand that the salon should not have more than three people at a time.

Ms Sarlo has created more room at the shop and does not encourage crowding.

"I've reduced the number of people I can allow in my salon. Customers should not be afraid of coming here. Creating more space to allow more room in the salon has also helped a lot," Ms Sarlo says.

Emirates has issued a raft of safety guidelines as the airline takes to the skies once more.

This was after the United Arab Emirates began to ease travel restrictions imposed in March.

Upon checking in, passengers will be given free complementary hygiene kits containing hand sanitiser, gloves and masks to be worn at the airports and in the planes.

At Dubai airport, passengers will undergo temperature tests and quick Covid-19 tests will be carried out for specific destinations.

This comes even as the airline has suspended the online booking of tickets to allow social distancing considerations to be taken whenever possible when assigning seats.

More countries are easing travel and lockdown restrictions to open up their economies.

In his address to the nation on Saturday, President Kenyatta hinted at the possibility of easing movement restrictions. Lockdown of five hotspot counties and the months-long dusk-to-dawn curfew may be removed in the coming days, the President said, adding that Kenyans will have to learn to live with the virus.

"Many countries have started easing restrictions. People cannot keep staying at home. We cannot afford to keep businesses closed and I've instructed my ministers to prepare Kenyans for this eventuality," Mr Kenyatta said.

"When we remove the restrictions, Kenyans will take personal responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus and keep observing the health guidelines laid out."

Before that, the government had announced a 21-day extension of the night curfew and lockdowns affecting Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera counties to June 6.

The government in the United Kingdom has been easing coronavirus lockdown in phases. People who cannot operate from home are being encouraged to go to work.

The next stage will see businesses and schools reopen.

Even as some sectors of the economy slowly reopen, businesses have to come to terms with how they will operate in the "new normal".

Kenya, especially, has not seen the worst of the coronavirus, with the government projecting that the pandemic could reach its peak in September.

The peak could see a daily infection average of 200, the ministry says.

Businesses will have to decide which employees to return to work while those that can still operate from home will be told to do so.

Companies will also restructure the seating in offices and at meetings to ensure only an allowable maximum of people gather.

Those that can afford will provide transport to staff to limit their exposure to coronavirus as much as possible

The elevator, a key daily conduit for thousands of people, is a potential place for infections. Companies have given guidelines reducing the number of people that can use a lift at a time.

Sanitation booths are stationed outside many of them.

Salesforce, a software company based in California with a workforce of 49,000, has allowed its staff to operate from home for the remaining part of the year.

It has put in place measures for those who will return to the workplace.

The company has set up an app that will check the workers' wellness before they enter -- at 30-minute intervals -- to prevent unnecessary contact.

"We realised there was a chokepoint, and that was the elevator, Ms Elizabeth Pinkham, the company's head of global real estate said.

"Salesforce has put signs in the disinfected elevators, which instruct users not to talk to one another."

Still, other companies are setting up sensors and cameras to check on the movements and contacts of employees at the workplace.

This will make contact tracing easier should a member of staff is tested positive with Covid-19.

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