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Voi Wildlife Lodge closed after four French tourists who stayed there tested positive for Covid-19. [Hezron Kimari, Standard]
Sixteen people among them hotel workers in Taita-Taveta County have been placed under self-quantized after they interacted with four French tourists who are suffering from the deadly Coronavirus.

The tourists who had been quarantined Msambweni Sub County hospital in Kwale County had been in the county for two days where they freely interacted with Voi Wildlife Lodge workers among others in Tsavo Conservation Area in the county.

At the same time a Jamaican national and his Taita wife are being sought after they arrived in Wundanyi town from Jamaica last week. The couple is being sought by the government after they went into hiding.

According to the Heath Services Executive John Mwakima Mwangeka, the four foreigners were in a vehicle when they toured the county among other parts of Coast region this week.

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“The tourists interacted with many hotel workers among other people in the region. We are asking those who might have interacted with the foreigners to come out to save the local population,” said the CEC.

Briefing The Standard on the incident, Mr Mwangeka said the county and national governments are closely monitoring the quarantined suspects.

“We are closely monitoring the 16 victims under self-quarantine in their homes to avert the spread of the viral disease. Local residents should also be prepared for harsh decisions to be made by the county response team to protect our people,” said the newly appointed executive.

Further, several hotels, cyber cafes, saloon and bars in Voi, Mwatate, Taitai and Taveta Sub Counties have been shut as preventive measures for the respiratory disease.

“Almost all the hotels in the region have been closed because visitors have stayed away. Dozens of workers have also been sacked while others sent on leave,” confirmed Mwangeka.

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The closure comes as hotels in Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks continue recording low business as the outbreak of Coronavirus continues to impact negatively on the tourism industry.

The Standard has reliably learnt that job losses have been reported in the hotels industry that forms the bulk of employment opportunities in the region.

Tourism players confirmed yesterday that hotels in the vast Tsavo ecosystem have been recording low bookings as foreign visitors stayed away.

According to the chairman of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers in Tsavo and Ambosel Willy Mwadilo, hotels in the entire ecosystem are operating below 12 percent in bed occupancy as foreign visitors kept off.

He confirmed that management of these hotels have sent their workers on leave while some of the workers had taken off duties as the employers monitor the situation in the next 30 days.

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The official disclosed that a total of more than 130 Sarova hotels workers have been sent on leave.

“Sarova Hotels has Taita Hills and Salt Lick lodges in Tsavo West National Park. A total of more than 130 have been sent on leave. We are only remaining with 30 skeleton workers as we monitor the situation,” revealed Mr Mwadilo.

The official who is also the general manager, Sarova Taita Hills and Salt Lick Lodges said the situation is the same in Voi Safari Lodge, Ngulia, Kilaguni, Serena, Ashnil and Voi Wildlife Lodges among other hotels in Tsavo ecosystem where the number of visitors is low.

“We have no visitors from foreign countries. Tourists fear traveling in the wake of Covid-19. We are now depending on domestic tourists,” stated Mwadilo.

“We are also anticipating an improvement of foreign tourists during the forthcoming Easter holidays but most people are unwilling to travel outside their countries,” he added.

Briefing The Standard on the impact of the respiratory disease, Mwadilo noted they were doing badly in the hotel industry.

 “For now the bed capacity is low and tourists are not visiting the park to view wildlife. We have no guests in our hotels and the situation is getting worse each day,” the official noted.

 “We have gone round the hotels to monitor the situation which is bad. Most of the hotels are deserted,” stated Mwadilo.

Meanwhile, the county public services board (CPSB) has suspended interviews they had slated for this month.

The board’s chairperson Alfred Mlolwa confirmed that all interviews have been suspended until further notice. “We have suspended interviews for various advertised positions in the county government to avoid contacts because people are coming from different places of the country. We are operating under the presidential directive,” said the official.

“The jobs advertised are not important. What is important is the safety of the county residents. We have also joined other stakeholders in putting in place preventive measures against the spread of the disease,” stated Mlolwa.

“As an employer of the county staff, we are working hand in hand with other relevant stakeholders to build the capacity of our staff on case management, personal protection,” maintained the Cpsb boss.

In addition, the county government has set up two functional isolation units with a bed capacity of 10 each, one in Taveta Sub County and another at Mwangea dispensary on the outskirts of Voi town.

Deputy Governor Majala Mlagui said two additional isolation units are also in the process of operationalization in Mwatate and Wundanyi Sub Counties.

We are swimming into uncharted waters with this disease and it requires all our joint efforts to keep each other safe. We must change our daily behaviours in line with the guidelines provided, “stated the deputy governor.  

Coronavirus COVID-19 Tourism Voi Wildlife Lodge
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