Kenyatta Gives Hint of Reopening Country

A ministry of health official fumigates a Nairobi street.
22 September 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday gave the strongest indication yet that he is likely to reopen the country after six months of economic paralysis occasioned by restrictions put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.

In what will certainly excite many small businesses struggling to stay afloat and thousands of people who have lost their jobs, the President directed the National Emergency Response on Coronavirus to review the national and county response to the contagion, and chart Kenya's "post-Covid future".

In a statement, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua said the subsisting containment measures will apply until September 29, when the committee will announce its recommendations. "The pivotal conference is tipped to be a turning point in the fight against Covid-19," Mr Kinyua said.

Over the past two months, the President has gradually eased the restrictions he had put in place, including lifting the cessation of movement order that barred entry into and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera. The restrictions lapsed on July 7.

Applicable guidelines

During his August address, the President amended the closing time for restaurants and eateries from 7pm to 8pm. He also allowed places of worship to begin a phased reopening in conformity with applicable guidelines developed by the Inter-Faith Council that he had formed.

Among the guidelines was the restriction of the maximum number of participants allowed at each worship ceremony to 100 and that a service must not last for more than an hour. In-person attendance excluded congregants under the age of 13 or over 58, or persons with underlying health conditions.

He had on August 26, however, extended the prohibition against social and political gatherings of over 15 people for an additional 30 days and imposed more stringent restrictions on sale of alcoholic drinks.

Movement restrictions into and out of Kenya through the Kenya-Tanzania and Kenya-Somalia borders were lifted while domestic air travel resumed on July 15 under the Ministry of Health and Transport guidelines.

International flights resumed on August 1. But the national carrier Kenya Airways faced challenges flying into Tanzania. But yesterday, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority announced the resumption and restoration of all flights by Kenyan operators.

Living with the disease

"The National Covid-19 Conference will be presided over by His Excellency the President on September 28 and will feature participants from the entire spectrum of our national life," said Mr Kinyua's statement to newsrooms.

The conference will guide on, among other issues, adaptation to living with the disease.

"The pivotal conference will outline a strategy for building and sustaining momentum with regard to recovery and resilience in a manner that ensures that Kenya bounces back better and stronger. It will showcase good practices, which have strengthened economic resilience and self-reliance, including the strengthening of our capacity for local manufacturing," Mr Kinyua said.

It will also discuss ways of honouring and paying tribute to 'Covid-19 heroes' due to their selfless service to the country during the pendency of the pandemic. Mr Kinyua reiterated that flattening the curve required action at the individual, community, county, and national levels.

Already, plans are underway for the reopening of schools on October 19.

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