Philadelphia — There is anxiety among Kenyans living in the US over when they will be allowed to fly back home following the resumption of international flights on August 1 after months of airport closure occasioned by the outbreak of Covid-19.
The initial list of countries allowed into Nairobi released by Transport CS James Macharia excluded the US but an updated one later included flights from the United States of America except for the states of California, Florida and Texas. The country is currently leading the world in the number of coronavirus cases.
The US, battling a resurgence of Covid-19 across the 50 states, has also been blocked by scores of countries around the world among them the entire European Union and its neighbour Canada.
Initially, CS Macharia had only listed China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Uganda, France, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Switzerland and Morocco, who have mild and limited community transmission, as countries whose flights will be allowed into Kenya.
Mr Macharia said the list was to be reviewed on a regular basis depending on the circumstances on the ground and after a comprehensive global mapping of the intensity of the disease.
According to the communiqué he released, all passengers arriving in the country will be required to produce a PCR based Covid-19 certificate whose test should have been done 96 hours before travel.
"Let it be clear that those who will have a certificate of tests done before the stipulated 96 hours will not be allowed to board in the first place. On arrival the passengers' temperature should not exceed 37.5 degrees and not display any Covid-19 related signs," Macharia said.
Kenyans living in the US, who constitute one the largest numbers of locals in diaspora, were looking forward to traveling home and were therefore shocked when they realised that America had been excluded from the initial list.
On Thursday when the list was released and Friday morning, many were on phones and social media asking the Kenyan embassy representatives why the US was excluded.
ADDED TO THE LIST
Later on Friday, Mr David Gacheru, the chief of missions at the Kenyan embassy in Washington, DC informed them in a WhatsApp message that upon further review, the US had been added to the list except for California, Florida and Texas, three of the largest states in the union.
"Additional countries identified today following further review and consultation between the Cabinet secretaries responsible for Transport, Health and Tourism are The United States of America (except for California, Florida and Texas), United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Quarter, United Arab Emirates and Italy. Review of countries from which travellers will not be required to be quarantined upon arrival will be undertaken by the Ministry of Health on a day to day basis. The ministry will then advise the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Urban Development," said Mr Gacheru in a WhatsApp message.
But this raised even more questions than it answered.
For instance, Patrick Ng'ang'a, a Kenyan resident of Maryland wondered, "How will they determine which part of the US you're coming from? Since they are excluding Texas, Florida and California, is it based on one's original departure airport or what?" he asked.
Mr Ng'ang'a explained that many people drive from other states such Oklahoma and other neighbouring states to fly to Kenya out of DFW in Texas which is an international airport.
"My question is, would these folks need to be quarantined as well once they arrive at JKIA? Also on the flip side, if I live in Texas but fly from Oklahoma, Atlanta or Chicago what happens when I arrive in Kenya?"
The same question came up during social media interactions between Kenyans since many international flights fly out of Los Angeles, in California, Dallas, Texas and Miami, Florida, therefore requiring Kenyans either to connect through these airports to Kenya.