Kenyatta Reopens Economy, but Warns Against Laxity

29 September 2020

You can now enjoy your favourite tipple in a bar... but only until 10pm. You can also stay outdoors for an extra two hours before you offend the Covid-19 curfew restrictions.

This is after President Kenyatta started to turn back the lights on the economy to prevent a recession, in a careful balance between keeping businesses afloat and protecting Kenyans.

He said his administration had shut the economy for the past six months in order to save it.

'Mnaweza kunywa...'

"Mnaweza kunywa pombe, sawa? (you can now take alcohol, okay?)," he told Kenyans, adding that restaurants will be required to adhere strictly to the Covid-19 containment measures.

Kenya's economy has been devastated by a triple crisis -- the worst locust infestation in 70 years, floods and now the Covid-19 pandemic in quick succession. But, it is the 207 days the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the country that has caused the most pain and pushed the economy over the cliff.

Despite relaxing the curfew window to now between 11pm and 4am, the Head of State extended the restriction of movement by two months even as he eased some of the tough Covid-19 measures in place since March to give businesses a breather.

Pandemic is real

The President expressed optimism that the fight against the virus had borne fruit, but warned against laxity. "Experience has taught us that we are most vulnerable and fragile at the moment we think we have won. The possibility of a second wave of this pandemic is real as we have seen in other countries," he said.

Arguing for a balance between life and the economy, President Kenyatta said that, for the past six months, the country has been in a 'Season of Paradox'.

The Covid-19 positivity rate, he said, has fallen from 13 per cent in June, seven per cent in August and is now at 4.4 per cent in September.

"I am not saying this to belittle the achievements we have made so far. I am only asking us to incline on the side of caution. If we have won one battle against Covid-19, we have not won the war yet," he said, adding that the numbers showed the Covid-19 curve had been flattened.

100 congregants

The President also varied the places of worship regulation he put in place in August, which required only 100 congregants at any one time. He directed that a third of an institution's seating capacity can attend services, but with strict adherence to the Health ministry protocols.

He also doubled the number of people who can attend public gatherings, funerals and weddings from 100 to 200.

While taking stock of the Covid-19 measures, President Kenyatta said since the country started the containment plan, crime had declined by a 21 per cent average and traffic accidents had reduced by an average of 10 per cent.

He also mentioned that in the past six months, Covid-19 had given the country an opportunity to reboot its health systems, as now counties have better facilities.

"The counties have actually installed more medical equipment than has ever happened since our country's independence," he said.

"Currently, and working in partnership with county governments, we are at 312 ICU beds and 7,411 isolation beds nationally. Done in only six months, these achievements are, indeed, phenomenal."

The President's announcement comes at a time when more than 600 companies have fired their employees, thousands of outlets have closed shop and over three million Kenyans rendered jobless.

Brewers are counting massive losses from the pandemic. "We're talking of losses of close to Sh300 million per month," Keroche Chief Executive Tabitha Karanja said.

Sh50 billion

Bar Owners and Liquor Traders Association said the industry was on its knees and estimated it had lost at least Sh50 billion since March. The association's secretary-general Benson Gachoka said 16,200 bar operators had already been pushed out of business.

By the end of June, Kenya Airways had lost about Sh10 billion due to the pandemic. Chief Executive Allan Kilavuka estimated the airline's lost revenue will grow to Sh50 billion by the end of the year. Banks have not been spared.

Drop in profits

Kenya's largest bank, the KCB Group, has reported a 40 per cent drop in net profits for the first half of the year. "This has been catastrophic," said KCB boss Joshua Oigara.

Absa Bank Kenya's net profit dropped by a record 85 per cent to Sh588.9 million in the same period, while Equity Group's profit has tumbled by 24.3 per cent to Sh9 billion.

Federation of Kenya Employers said every modern sector company in Kenya had lost at least 33 jobs on average and 60 of its members had retrenched.

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