To open transport hubs or not: Was CS Macharia right?

Local and international flights into and out of the country will resume on July 15 and August 1, 2020 respectively.

In the same breath, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia (pictured) announced the easing of travel restrictions on Wednesday.

Three resolves from his announcement stood out and have since sparked widespread uproar across the internet. Here they are:

  • That there will be no mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving into the country if they do not exhibit any flu symptoms
  • That airline crews who do not display flu-like symptoms will also be exempted from quarantine
  • That only travelers with valid tickets will be allowed access in the airports; that all foreign travelers must have Covid-19 free certificates upon arrival.

Macharia added that only people with signs such as high temperatures will be put on mandatory quarantine when flights resume.

“Passengers shall be exempted from quarantine on arrival if their body temperatures are below 37.5° and they show no Covid-19 symptoms,” he said.

The CS also said that airlines will not have to drastically reduce the number of passengers for them to fly, because if they carried less than 75 per cent of their passenger capacity, they would incur losses.

Following the announcement, some Kenyans are frowning as others smile.

Some say the government will be to blame for an upsurge in Coronavirus disease cases once the airport gates are thrown open.

Vox-pops conducted by Standard Digital however reveal two sides of the coin.

Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation Mohammed Hersi however says that the CS is being misquoted. “Passengers cannot be allowed to board an airplane without showing the Covid-19 free certificate. Meaning, those already coming in have been cleared,” Hersi said.

But locally, “This is a very good thing for us because it will boost domestic tourism,” he continued.

A business journalist says this will have a positive impact on the tourism sector that has suffered a huge dip globally due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it will see many people venture out, and through that battered sectors such as tourism may start making money from local tourism”.

Another journalist says: “It is a wrong move especially at a time when community infections are on the rise. Most tourists will probably interact with locals and soon the situation will get out of hand. The move is hasty and a mockery of containment measures.”

Welcoming the resolve on Public Service Vehicle guidelines, Matatu Welfare Association Chairman Dickson Mbugua said that stipulated protocols are implementable, adding that  Matatu Sacco leaders should ensure that their vehicles are in compliance.

The situation is not unique to Kenya alone.

Experts have warned that easing coronavirus restrictions will lead to an upsurge of infections.

For instance, Madagascar is still reeling from the effects of lifting the lockdown. There was a resurgence in infections which has forced President Andry Rajoelina to revert to the lockdown.

Former Kemri Director Davy Koech also warned against complacency as the country is not fully prepared to handle a surge in infections.

If their arguments and thoughts of many Kenyans are anything to go by, the move by CS Macharia may just serve as a case study on what not to do when planning to reopen sections of the economy amid a ravaging pandemic.

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