Stakeholders in the hospitality industry in the Coast region have called upon the government to avail COVID-19 testing kits to enable hotels to re-open.
The hoteliers expressed fears that the lack of testing kits could delay resumption to business even after President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday relaxed some of the containment measures, including ending the cessation of movement into and out of Mombasa, Nairobi and Mandera counties.
Chairperson of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers in the North Coast Region, Ms. Maureen Awuor, told journalists in Malindi town on Monday that it had been difficult for hoteliers to access the kits as they were said to be unavailable in Kilifi County.
She said since COVID-19 test results were a prerequisite for certification by the Ministry of Health and the Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) for hotels and restaurants to re-open, lack of the testing kits had made it difficult for hotels to comply with that protocol.
Awuor said public health officers she had talked to had told her that the testing kits were not available in the country and that those who need them have to make an order.
“Most of the hotels are ready to re-open because most of the protocols rolled out for re-opening have been adhered to, but the biggest challenge has been the availability of testing kits, which the public health officers we have talked to have said are not available,” she said.
“It takes about three weeks for an order to be delivered, and even after testing, we have to wait for another three weeks for the results to come,” she said adding, “This means that even after the reopening of the inter-counties movement, most of the hotels will not be able to re-open immediately,” she said.
She complained that despite the government announcing that each hotel employee would be tested at a fee of Sh1, 000, hotels are being charged Sh3, 000 per employee.
“As i remember, the Ministries of Health and Tourism had agreed that hotel staff would be tested at a cost of Sh1,000 each, but now the kits are not even there and even the charges are not the ones agreed upon,” she said.
She asked the government to avail the kits in order for them to re-open their premises, “because the more we stay out of business, the more we suffer and the more the government also suffers since we shall not be able to pay taxes.”
Awuor at the same time asked the government to carry out mass testing in Kilifi and Malindi for people to know their status and stop unwillingly infecting others.
Pine Court Hotel Manager Arnold Mwema concurred with Ms. Awuor, and also urged the government to avail the hotel refurbishment fund announced by the President to enable owners of old hotel establishments to refurbish their properties.
“As hoteliers, we have suffered major losses due to the pandemic and now we are asking the government to avail the kits and to ensure the test results are delivered timely so that we can get the certification to re-open,” he said.
“We also wish to appeal to the government to help us with the funding so we can quickly comply with the measures put in place and aid the re-opening of the industry as the pandemic has greatly affected the tourism, travel and hospitality industries in general,” he added.