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Bar, restaurant operators beg Uhuru to ease restrictions, reopen country

Operators of bars, restaurants, boda boda, taxis and fresh produce traders have begged President Uhuru Kenyatta to reopen the country during his next update on measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 this month.

Speaking in Nairobi, the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (PERAK) said since the first case of Coronavirus was reported last year, the operators have borne the biggest brunt of the impact.

“Unfortunately, several bars and restaurants have had to shut down because of the pandemic. The first wave of closures happened when all bars, restaurants and nightclubs were ordered shut at the beginning of the pandemic in Kenya,” said PERAK director Mike Muthami.

“While there was some relief for the sector when the Government allowed partial reopening, things have not improved well enough for the sector to fully recover,” Muthami added.

According to the association, since the onset of Covid-19 in the country, more than 30 percent of the bars and restaurants that were in operation before the pandemic have shut down completely.

“That’s about 16,000 businesses that have collapsed, and given that every restaurant employs at least 10 people, that’s about to 160,000 people losing their livelihoods,” he added.

PERAK-Nairobi Chairman Francis Mbogo noted that bars and restaurants have been forced to work single shifts instead of the previous two per day.

“We have been forced to reduce our staff by half, which means that close to 190,000 workers are out of jobs. The actual affected number of Kenyans is more than 1 million when you consider that each of these workers supports five people,” he said.

The bar and restaurant operators added that they have continued to suffer for adhering to the government’s Covid-19 protocols yet politicians have been holding public rallies contrary to the same guidelines.

“This failure to punish the breach of the law while continuing to ruthlessly enforce the same law on another group of people, simply because they are not as powerful or connected as the leaders and elected representatives, amounts to a breach of the human right to earn a living through lawful means,” they added.

“We would therefore 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,” he appealed.

“I used to operate two shits as a taxi driver but now I can only offer one because of the lockdown. Sometimes we have to spend the night in bushes after dropping a passenger due to the time,” said Mr Christopher Tinenga a taxi operator in the city.

Many Kenyans have found the going tough since the pandemic landed in Kenya, with the night-time curfew, restricted movement into or out of many counties, including Nairobi, and closure of schools, bars, clubs and places of worship at the initial stage with some measures still in place up to now.

Since March 13, 2020 when Kenya reported its first confirmed case of the virus, politicians observed the strict public health measures together with other Kenyans as had been directed by the government.

However, in the recent months leaders have been holding public gatherings and attending funerals, while ignoring Covid-19 measures as the state strictly implements the measures on the remaining population with little wiggling room as many struggle to put food on the table or lose their source of livelihoods.