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Customers enjoy a cup of tea while observing social distance at Green Valley Hotel in Nakuru town, yesterday after the government lifted lockdown in disease infected counties on Saturday. Photo/PD/Raphael Munge

Kenyans breathed a sigh of relief after the government lifted the lockdown in the disease infected counties of Nairobi, Machakos, Nakuru, Kiambu and Kajiado, with the hope of picking up the pieces and working for a brighter tomorrow.  

From jua kali artisans to airlines; mama mboga to captains of industry, everyone is looking to leverage on the reopening to improve their economic wellbeing.

A spot-check by the People Daily showed while hospitality businesses are dusting off their premises with revellers trickling in, transporters have taken their fleets for service and commuters are trooping to bus termini to travel to different destinations.

Investors in Public Service Vehicles plying long distance routes say they are hopeful business will pick up by the end of the week while in the hospitality sector, many hotels have opened and allowing in-person service.

Holiday destinations such as those in the North Coast and South Coast yesterday revealed they had begun receiving bookings from upcountry guests who had cancelled their holidays as a result of the travel restrictions.

At Travellers Beach Hotel and Club, for example, General Manager Hilary Siele disclosed that the hotel had incurred Sh4.6 million loss on conferencing and events immediately after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement cessation of movement in the five counties.

Below average

Baobab Beach Resort and SPA in the South Coast is among tourist establishments which have begun positioning themselves to receive guests in line with covid-19 protocols.

“Welcome back to your favourite spot Friends. We are more than ready to continue serving you with excellence as you deserve.

Pay for 3 stay for 4 days offer still continues from as low as Sh6,900 per night,” the hotel announced yesterday

At Travellers Beach, Siele said the hotel had 85 per cent of its staff placed on compulsory leave as the cost of operations remained unbearable.

“We are not able to meet any bills right now, we are just operating below average financially; about the stimulus package we are yet to get it, we stand a position to benefit but we are hoping that it will go through, we have complied 100 per cent so when it comes through, it will greatly help us,” said Siele.

In the transport sector, Kenya Association of Bus Companies national chairman Abubakar Talib said the sector lost close to Sh100 million a day since travelling in and out of the five counties was restricted.

“This is a huge loss because some of our members have grounded operations, and workers lost employment,” said Talib.

He said the fare hikes were as a result of the high cost of fuel.

 But for other players, the resumption of inbound flights, the Standard Gauge Railway trains and the long-distance passenger bus companies now provides an easy linkage between Nairobi and the Coast of Kenya which most of its domestic tourists come from.

“Most of our domestic tourists are from upcountry, therefore the reopening of the five counties is a big relief for the sector as many guests will now troop to Mombasa on weekends, for conferences and also on leisure, we are hoping the government will continue supporting the sector players to stand on its feet,” said Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers coast executive director.

Yesterday, budget carrier Skyward Express resumed its flights from Mombasa to Nairobi and vice versa.

Safari Link Aviation announced that it will resume trips to Diani, Vipingo on May 6, while Malindi and Lamu will commence on May 7. Trips to Kisumu and Masai Mara commence today.

In their social media platforms, budget carrier companies separately stated that all passengers and airport users are still required to strictly observe the safety measures put in place.

Ikwaye says the hotel industry is now registering between 7-10 per cent local guests on leisure, conferencing and meetings at the coast.

Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mohamed Hersi, welcomed the government’s decision and termed the lifting of lock down as a big relief to the sector.

The official, however, warned players against dropping the guard against the virus.

According to Hersi, the sector was far from recovering from the shocks posed by the virus, if Kenyans continue to disregard the set guidelines.

At the same time, Kenya Railways company KR has indicated that resumption of operations of the Madaraka Express Passenger Services between Mombasa and Nairobi and Nairobi Terminus and Suswa station start Monday morning (today).

“The schedule remains unchanged with the Inter-county train departing from Mombasa and Nairobi at 8:00 am; the Express train departing at 3:00 pm; and the Night train departing at 10:00 pm.

The booking platforms have been opened to the public for online purchase of tickets,” states the company through a notice to the public. 

The company indicated that unutilised tickets due to the just concluded Cessation of Movement Order will be used and urged customers to reschedule travel to a preferred date.

“We have waived the rescheduling fee for tickets purchased before May 2, 2021.

The Link train to Nairobi Terminus at 6:35 am; 12:00 pm; and 8:00 pm will be available to transport passengers to Nairobi Terminus and upon arrival from Mombasa,” reads the notice. By Christopher Owuor, PDOnline

Prof Murwira. Photo The Herald

 

 

Zimbabwe and South Sudan are working towards strengthening ties in the education sector, with the two countries expected to sign another cooperation agreement after the Government agreed to release certificates of Sudanese nationals, who graduated from different local universities.

The certificates had been withheld for various reasons.

Last Friday, Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira met South Sudan Higher Education Minister, Gabriel Changson Chang, to map how the two countries could strengthen ties in the education sector.

In the meeting, Mr Changson Chang expressed commitment to fulfilling the agreement signed between the two countries.

Speaking at the certificates handover ceremony, Prof Murwira said Harare will continue engaging Juba in areas of enhancing education.

“As you know, we have a sacrosanct relationship with South Sudan,” he said. “We struggled together and we are still struggling together to make sure that our continent is emancipated from poverty, oppression, disease, so that we have an Africa that is full of hope. 

“Hope alone is not enough, it has to be filled by capability.” 

Prof Murwira urged the South Sudan students who received their certificates to fully utilise the knowledge they received Zimbabwe.

“Go there and do things out there,” he said. “We need courage and focus as we move this country forward. It needs a spirit of a never die.

“This is why in this country we have revamped our education from a three mission education of research, teaching and community engagement to a five mission education type which talks about teaching research, community engagement, innovation and industrialisation.” 

Minister Changson Chang thanked the Zimbabwean Government for releasing the certificates and made an undertaking to fulfil what they agreed to.

He extended an invitation to Prof Murwira to visit South Sudan so that they explore other areas of cooperation in the education sector.

“The relationship will not stop from here,” said Mr Changson Chang. “The next step is to invite Prof Murwira and his team to South Sudan. While in South Sudan, you will see what we have. We will have cooperation agreement and we plan to make a draft, share it with him and he will put his input so that by the time he comes to South Sudan it will be ready for signature.

“We will also make sure that it will not break on its way. We will also want to benefit as a Ministry and as a country from your education system, so we would like to compare your governing documents and how your universities do their work. We would like also to exchange views on programmes. 

“We would like to say thank you for what we did within a short period of time.” 

The handover ceremony was also attended by South Sudan Head of Delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Gabriel Riak. - Nyore Madzianike, The Herald

Photo International Organization for Migration

 

Bujumbura – More than 30,000 people have been affected by flooding across Burundi’s coast due to the rising waters of Lake Tanganyika. An assessment by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) reveals that local villages on the shores of Rukaramu and Gatumba zones, in Mutimbuzi commune (Bujumbura Rural province) are among the hardest hit.

Thousands of families have been forced to leave their flooded homes in the last week. Most of the 6,239 households, including 5,208 from Gatumba and 1,121 from Rukaramu, are being sheltered either by host families or in houses under construction and at collective centres. Some families remain in their homes despite being partially submerged.

“They don’t know where to go. Some try to get the water out using bowls and pans, whatever they have.
People have spread out in the area so it can be very difficult to collect data quickly,” said Innocent Kwizera, IOM’s DTM focal point from the Burundian Red Cross.

The situation is likely to worsen as the number of affected people continues to grow along with the lake’s water level which began to rise gradually over a year ago and reached a tipping point for many coastal villages over the last week. IOM in collaboration with the local administration, have deployed a team made up of mainly Red Cross Volunteers throughout the area to collect data to find out how many are affected and some of the most urgent needs.

Host families whose resources are already strained run the risk of falling into the vulnerable category, thereby increasing critical humanitarian needs. Most of Gatumba and Rukaramu’s affected inhabitants are farmers or fishers who have lost their food stocks for the year and whose essential field crops are now destroyed.

According to the Geographic Institute of Burundi, the cause of Lake Tanganyika rising is two-fold; unseasonal heavy rainfall across the sub-region in countries bordering the Lake (such as Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and the Lukuga river that is overflowing - a tributary of the Lualaba River in the DRC that is normally an outlet for the Lake. According to meteorological projections, the rains are expected to continue until mid-May.

Gatumba is already under considerable strain. Around the same time last year, torrential rains caused the banks of the Rusizi river to overflow, causing a similar flooding emergency that affected roughly 50,000 people. Nearly 20,000 of the most vulnerable displaced persons were given shelter in four displacement sites in the area. Although these camps are currently being decommissioned by the Government of Burundi with help from partners, IOM anticipates additional localized emergencies – further to last week’s – which will perpetuate urgent needs.

“This emergency is unprecedented for Burundi. We must act now to urgently respond to the most basic needs of the most vulnerable people – such as safe shelter, clean water and protection,” says Vijaya Souri, IOM’s Chief of Mission for Burundi. - International Organization for Migration

Passengers arriving at Entebbe airport. Photo The Observer

 

The government has banned flights to and from India following a sudden increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Asian country.

India has so far recorded more than 18 million cases of COVID-19 with over 218,000 deaths. The country is also in a crisis with an acute shortage of essential supplies such as oxygen and ventilators for the overflowing critical cases to health facilities. Today, Sunday India recorded another 3,072 new coronavirus deaths and 350,715 new cases. 

Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng told journalists on Friday that Uganda has so far recorded one case of the Indian strain of the COVID-19 virus that is feared to be lethal. She said starting May 1, only those Ugandan nationals will be allowed back in the country. 

The ban also affects travelers that have traveled through India in the last 14 days. For travelers arriving from India Aceng says they are expected to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate conducted 120 hours from the time of sample collection and will undergo another mandatory PCR test on arrival.

Once found positive, Aceng says they will be isolated at their own cost in a designated hotel whereas those that test negative will undergo self-quarantine at their residences. The only exempted flights from the ban are cargo flights, technical stops where travelers don’t leave the flight and operations related to humanitarian work, medical evacuation, or approved diplomatic flights.  

Currently, there are five circulating strains of coronavirus in Uganda including the Ugandan strain which has already been seen in 34 other countries. The other strains include the South African, Nigerian and the one from the United Kingdom. 

Considering these circulating strains, the ministry of Health has also recommended that travelers coming from UK, United Arab Emirates, the US, Turkey, South Africa, South Sudan, and Tanzania which countries they named category two should consider postponing non-essential travel to Uganda.  

She however noted that travelers who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to test on arrival in the country. Currently, while India has vaccinated 11 per cent of its entire population, Uganda has only vaccinated 0.7 per cent of the population with the first jab in an exercise that is only picking up now with fears of resurging infection.

Dr. Yonas  Tegegn Woldermariam, the World Health Organization country representative said even with such small vaccination figures Uganda is among the countries performing well as far as uptake in Africa is concerned. He urged countries not to be worried about the circulating news of vaccine expiries noting that countries that have destroyed or returned their jabs have only wasted them. - URN/The Observer

Police officers patrol at the Lamu Port following the arrival of the first batch of equipment on April 28, 2021. Photo KEVIN ODIT/NMG

 

Officials will start testing operations of the new Lamu port at the end of next month ahead of the June 15 commissioning.

The first batch of equipment including low load trailers, extension cargo handlers and trailers to be used at the multibillion-shilling facility arrived at the port on Wednesday.

The second batch including rubber tyred gantries, forklift and utility vans are expected by mid-next month.

Lamu Port general manager Abdullahi Samatar said testing of the equipment will begin on May 20 before the first vessel from Maersk makes a maiden call to the facility.

“We have complied with all port requirements and have temporary International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code to use in our berth number one,” said Mr Samatar.

The viability of the port, which has seen the first three berths completed at Sh5.1 billion ($48 million) has been put into question over low demand as it was expected to attract transshipment business, mainly from Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The port is a key part of the wider Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor, which is being implemented at a total cost of Sh2.5 trillion ($24 billion).

Mr Samatar sought to allay fears the port could become a white elephant project, saying a number of shipping lines have visited the port and were willing to use the facility

Commissioning of the port has been delayed thrice over the past two years on funding shortages and operationalisation of all three berths is likely to be pushed to end of the year as authorities seek at least Sh9.5 billion for the purchase of basic equipment to run the berths.

To make berth 2 and 3 operational, there is a need for the full establishment of the port structure and acquisition of new equipment.

Due to constrained budget, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is transferring some equipment and staff from Port of Mombasa to Lamu.

According to an official document from KPA, 263 staff will be deployed to run the facility, the majority of them from Mombasa. - Anthony Kitimo, The EastAfrican

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