Bar owners and brewers in the country have resolved to spearhead efforts to fight Covid-19 in the country, owing to their grassroots reach across the 47 counties.
This resolution came up when representatives from the Bar, Hotels and Liquor Traders Association (BAHLITA) and the Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) met with the National Multi-Agency Command Centre on Covid-19 (NMACC) that is headquartered in Embakasi Garrison, Nairobi Wednesday.
The meeting which comes in the wake of increased adverse effects on world economies by the pandemic that includes the service industry, was meant to revamp efforts on risk communication and community engagement on the disease.
Speaking during the meeting, the NMACC Commander, Major General Ayub Matiiri lauded the initiative by the two associations to come on board and take a centre stage in enforcing Ministry of Health guidelines relating to the sale of alcohol and bar operations.
“We urge the bar owners and the public in general to emulate such individual and collective responsibilities in efforts to fight the pandemic,” he said, adding that the only way out for both the citizenry and the economy alike is reduction of the number of infections which will in turn pave way for normalcy.
Also speaking during the meeting, Colonel (Dr) Chris Ekuttan underscored the need for partnership in the fight against Covid-19. He stated that the war against COVID-19 is more than a health crisis but also an economic nightmare.
“Our individual behaviors and willingness to follow public health and social measures remains the single most powerful weapon to stop the spread,” he said.
In his address, the Secretary General of BAHLITA, Mr. Boniface Gachoka, underscored the need to talk to the hearts of people through moral persuasion as opposed to forceful enforcement.
“Risk Communication and Community Engagement is indeed the gateway to each and every of our members and Kenyans in general. Forthwith, as BAHLITA and ABAK, we are embarking on aggressive sensitization through our over 2000 whatsapp groups and short message service to encourage our members to stick to the Ministry of Health’s guidelines,” he added.
While noting that bars and restaurants inevitably attracts large crowds, BAHLITA women league Chairperson, Edith Wanjiku, said that they were coming up with Bar Kumi initiative- a replica of Nyumba Kumi Initiative- in which ten bars in a neighbourhood keep an eye on each other on the compliance to Covid-19 protocols. “Generally, most of our people already have basic knowledge on the pandemic but have become complacent and would rather take the risk and only adhere to protocols because they fear the police. Bar Kumi, will see bars being divided into regions and registered to organizations for easier regulation and follow up Countrywide.” She added.
Speaking on the same forum, JM Wambugu, the chairman of Bar Owners in Nairobi region acknowledged the support given by the government and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) on efforts to curb the spread of the virus urging that once their compliance levels are up to standard, the government needs to consider extending their working hours.
“Closure of bars have made socializing very difficult. Due to limited operation time, people have resulted to buying alcohol from wines & spirits. This has created a ripple effect on families, bar owners, staff and farmers,” he said