COVID-19: Uhuru’s tough choices as he holds crisis meeting with governors
President Uhuru Kenyatta is on Wednesday expected to announce a raft of measures aimed at containing what appears to be the second wave of the coronavirus.
The President is set to meet county governors for an extraordinary session occasioned by the country’s seemingly worsening COVID-19 trends.
Business people are now expressing fear over the possible return of the tough restrictions imposed in the first months of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Traders at the Muthurwa market do not have the best memories of what they remember as the ‘lockdown’.
Here, business is a contact sport – the complete opposite of the public health guidelines on managing the pandemic. So, Nancy Wanjiku, Mary Wairimu and Naomi Nafula are apprehensive about the impending State of the Nation address by President Kenyatta; an address that could just bring back tough restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.
“Tunahofia anaweza funga mipaka ama lockdown ama curfew…tunaweza shindwa kufanya biashara yetu na kuweka chakula kwa meza,” says Wanjiku.
“Aangalie biashara juu vitu nauza zinatoka mbali ndo niuze hapa,” adds Wairimu.
“Ningeomba tu wasirudishe curfew ju tumeanza kupata kitu kidogo, si kama kitambo vile ilikuwa, sisi tulikuwa tunaumia,” chimes in Nafula.
But some traders say the government has not been tough enough.
According to Mueni Nduku, one such trader, “Hii ugonjwa imerejea juu watu wamepewa masaa nyingi ya kutembea na kufanya kazi ingine haifai, ju kama umepewa hadi saa mbili unajua nitafanya hivi na hivi.”
“Biashara inafanyika usiku ni ya wizi, kazi inafanywa mchana kama imewekwa curfew watu watajibalance hio ya usiku huwezii lazimisha kazi na watu wanakufa,” adds Gregory Onyango, resident, Embakasi.
The President on September 28, 2020 eased restrictions allowing bars to operate and reduced curfew hours; a month later, Kenya is hitting triple digits on new cases of infections.
“Si vile watu walikuwa wanapiga pang’anga ati oooh hakuna corona, ooh ni Uhuru anatafuta pesa…sasa watu wamjionea….corona iko,” says Joel Kamau, PSV operator in Nairobi.
With the sharp spike in the number of infections, Joy Kiiru, a senior economist at the University of Nairobi says President Kenyatta’s expected announcement should only add to the gains made in containing the pandemic.
“The question is who are you going to discriminate to carry out the social-economic burden of regulations not going anywhere…because look at politicians, what difference will it make if we tell mama mboga that she cannot operate her business at a certain time?” Poses Ms Kiiru.
And it is politicians that should be put on check, according to some businessmen.
“Wao wanafanya mikutano ya siasa, sisi tunajaribu kuweka watu wetu na kuangalia biashara…asituumize sisi wafanya biashara,” says Alexander Mutua, a hotelier.
With no way to eradicate COVID-19 and the ever-present risk of a resurgence, the President will have to scratch his head and find a way to balance the equation on how to contain the infections and prevent the already struggling economy from crumbling down.