Bar owners, taxi operators call for easing of Covid restrictions

Written By: Ronald Owili

PHOTO | Courtesy

With just a few hours before Kenya receives the first batch of COVID-19 1.02 million doses, bar owners and taxi operators are calling for relaxation of control measures that the government has deployed since March last year.

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According to restaurant operators, taxi operators and fresh produce suppliers the 10pm-4am countrywide curfew as well as other restrictions imposed on the businesses have badly affected their businesses and caused economic damage.

“We would like to appeal to His Excellency the President to consider our plight and lift the restrictions on operating hours or reduce the curfew hours, if not do away with it altogether. If we continue operating in the current circumstances, our various sectors will continue on a dangerous downhill trend that is likely to result in more suffering and joblessness,” said Mike Muthamia, Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (PERAK) board member.

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PERAK says estimates that more than 30% of its members have had to close their establishments as a result of the pandemic.

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“That’s about 16,000 businesses that have collapsed, and given that every restaurant employs at least 10 people, that’s about 160,000 people losing their livelihoods,” said Frank Mbogo, Chairman PERAK Nairobi chapter.

In November last year, trade ministry published 16 general hygiene measures for safe operation of bar and pub owners to implement before they can be granted a permit to sell alcohol in their premises.

Among them is shielding counters with a Perspex glass to block contact between buyer and seller with the latter prohibited from sitting at the counter.

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Mbogo has said restaurant operators have been forced to reduce their staff by half, which means that close to 190,000 workers are out of jobs as a result of working one shift instead of the usual two.

More than one million Kenyans have been affected by the closure as each worker is estimated to have five dependents.

Christopher Tinega, who represents taxi operators in the Kilimani area of Nairobi, said a lot of his counterparts have been driven into poverty because of the virtual death of the business, which depends on transporting customers at night.

“We have been reduced to working one shift, where we are used to two. Most of the cars we have been taken on loan and when we are unable to operate at night, it means that we are unable to pay our lenders, and many cars have been taken back,” said Tinega.

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He said bar and restaurant businesses are dependent on others operating and the restrictions on operating hours for entertainment spots have had a dire effect on them.

“I request the President to lift the restrictions and allow the economy to operate 24 hours. We are now used to the measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 and we are ready and willing to abide by them,” he said.

Nderitu Macharia, a farmer and fresh produce supplier, said having less patrons in bars has hurt their business and made it hard for them to make ends meet.

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