President Uhuru Kenyatta has indicated his desire to reopen the economy, albeit cautiously, to avert another wave of infections.
We, the private sector, appreciate that we are at the heart of ensuring that the plan succeeds, hence our contribution to this unfolding debate on how and when is the right time to act.
Collectively being the biggest employer and obviously the worst affected by the pandemic, we cannot wait to affirm our commitment to ensuring the right balance between the potential risks and returning to work for the millions of workers rendered redundant by Covid-19.
After careful analysis of the 11 weeks that the virus has been with us, we should start with relaxing curfew hours as the first step to the intended reopening. An additional four hours would mean the productive sector is engaged a little longer, while there is no rush to go home to beat the 7 pm cut-off time.
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As the country grapples to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease and its debilitating socio-economic effects, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry implores President Kenyatta to listen to us.
We hold the view that safety remains a priority and also appreciate the fact that life has to go on; people should have an opportunity to have a daily meal, income and at the very least, should be facilitated to meet basic daily necessities.
Rightly so, we also appreciate the fact that the widespread disruptions caused by control measures against the pandemic are intended to forestall a catastrophic eventuality. The curfew and cessation of movement rules are temporary stop-gap measures to address the situation.
We should now be alive to the facts about what the new normal should be, and abide by all the health guidelines and protocols as advised by the government.
Currently, over 80 per cent of our population lives off the informal sector with day-to-day earnings; if they don’t work, they do not eat.
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We call upon the president to lift the total ban on the cessation of movement in all counties and the dusk-to-dawn curfew. However, if the total lifting of the curfew and ban on movement is not tenable, we passionately appeal to the President to extend curfew hours from 7 pm to 10 pm.
Restricted and regulated inter-county movement, with the exception of those providing essential services, is also manageable.
This will ease pressure on the economy, but the partial reopening will mean it is still far from business as usual. We have to exercise high levels of individual responsibility.
As the chamber, we commit to ensure, in conjunction with the relevant authorities, stakeholders and government agencies, that employers and business owners provide protective gears for their workers, notably face masks and sanitisers, as well as ensure their customers are fully compliant with all the health guidelines, including social distancing.
The primary level of enforcement is the employer or the business owner, to ascertain that their employees and customers constantly sanitise and wash their hands, put on face masks and maintain social distance as directed by the Ministry of Health.
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KNCCI? commits to ensuring that those in hospitality industries pay the Covid-19 test fee for their employees before resuming business. Commendably, the test charges have been reduced to Sh1,000 per individual.
The onus will be highest on members of the private sector, especially the high-risk facilities that were forced to entirely shut down their premises.
Among others, the entertainment industry, hotels, airlines, tour operators, learning institutions and public transport sectors have endured the hardest negative effects of the pandemic as countries closed their borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
If possible, these sectors should be the targets of a first wave of lockdown release because they are less suitable for virtual work and play very important roles in the revival of the economy, bearing in mind that some organisations have been deemed essential and continued to operate through the pandemic.
However, due to the natural urge to recover, the allure of cash and having customers flocking to premises will not be entertained as it stands to water down all the gains made.
If there are any rebounds or outbreaks of Covid-19, the State and all stakeholders should be ready to go back to corrective actions, depending on the severity of the situation.
Mr Ngatia is president, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry