On July 6th, 2020, the President of the Republic of Kenya addressed the nation in a very anticipated presidential address in which among other things, he lifted the partial lockdown that had confined people to certain locales within Nairobi and Mombasa. Against the counsel of medical professionals, and in the spirit of the global business forum, he opened up the country with prospects of resuming travel operations to salvage the dwindling economy.
It became apparent just how eargely people were waiting to travel given the influx of travellers at various channels such as bus terminus. The president also gave an indication of the resumption of air travel on 1st August, 2020 with the view of rescuing the hotel and hospitality industry which has been severely affected. The transport Cabinet Secretary, James Macharia shortly after followed the address with new guidelines that would govern the modus operandi in every aspect of travel.
Prior to the lockdown, road transport already had measures that had been put in place in effort to curb the spread of Covid 19, which measures were resumed save for a few additional regulatory measures such as Fumigation. Air travel on the other hand had surprisingly underwhelming requirements. The spacing requirements demanded of road transport were not replicated in the air. Instead, the sitting arrangements remained the same congested design that increases the likelihood of infection.
The lifted lockdown also prompted various countries to recall their kin and citizens who had been stranded during the lockdown. We have it on good authority that most governments made special bilateral and multilateral concessions with each other to allow travel for their citizens shortly after several countries opened up around the same time as Kenya. India, the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia are among the countries that would benefit from the agreements. Several people stranded away from home then purposed to travel upon reception of the news from their various high commissions.
Things however quickly went south when they got to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport which allegedly has a different set of regulations.
Firstly, the Transport CS James Macharia had indicated that arrivals that did not exhibit symptoms such as elated body temperatures or breathing difficulties will be allowed in to the country, and will go for discretionary self quarantine. Those who had symptoms and the individuals that sat close to them in the aircraft’s, will be taken to a mandatory quarantine for 14 days, and at the expense of the government.
Besides how bizarre that alone sounded, and given how communicable the disease is, chaos errupted at the airport from Sunday 12th July, 2020 when some expected arrivals and departures became somewhat problematic. Albeit having all the required documents, and having undergone all the necessary testing and certification as required by the ministry of Transport, arrivals of Kenyan citizenry were forced to self quarantine at the airport or risk being mandatorily isolated at the quarantine facilities at the travellers expenses. They reiterated that they were openly asked for bribes by JKIA staff, and officers allegedly from the Airport police station in order for them to be released. Some had already been released, having agreed to part with the 10 000/- demanded for each passenger.
“Only diplomats and non Kenyan Citizens are exempted from the screening, the rest of us all have to endure the torture. I arrived with my friends from the UAE because we lost our jobs there and have been stuck there surviving of the Muslims generous benouvalence. We arrived here without a penny to our name” laments one of the empathetic arrivals.
While Kenyans are ignored, diplomats of other countries were given VVIP treatment despite not having all the required documentation. KQ CEO Allan Kilavuka has strongly rubbished the allegations despite the availability of photo evidence to support a different narrative.