The recent decision by Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and his health advisers to resume domestic flights reflects the measured way in which government is planning to take the economy back to normal.
Kenya Airways (KQ) began to re-open domestic flights on July 15, with strict measures to ensure that the spread of coronavirus will not take place on passenger flights.
This followed a 99-day flight hiatus, which was hard economically but necessary as we became familiar with the basics of the disease and scientists began to understand how it was spread.
According to KQ Managing Director Allan Kilavuka, the second flight to Mombasa was already fully booked. This indicates that demand will rise, and Kenyans are eager to resume domestic travel.
Officials have deemed it necessary to put in place strict sanitary measures as passengers go through airports. This includes several points to wash and disinfect hands, as well as passing through temperature testing points and enforced mask wearing at all times.
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Based on the safety of domestic flights, authorities will soon decide whether it is suitable to resume international flights. Closing down both domestic and international travel has not been easy on the economy, but it was a step that had to be taken to keep the Covid-19 pandemic under control.
The first hotspots of the virus were in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya’s two main international hubs. This left President Uhuru Kenyatta with no choice but to limit movement in and out of those hubs to ensure that cases would not rise too quickly.
This tough decision is what allowed Kenya to be able to keep the situation under control from the beginning, and slowed the speed of the virus.
Return to life
Now that we are somewhat wiser about what we are dealing with but still lack a vaccine, the government’s decision to begin by opening up domestic travel is a great way to return to life.
While it was right to shut down the economy in the beginning, it cannot go on forever. Uhuru’s cautious but steady policy of getting back to business is the only way we will be able to stay healthy but also keep on earning a living.
And domestic tourism is an ideal kick-off point. Last year, tourism accounted for almost nine per cent of Kenya’s gross domestic product. After all, there is a lot to visit here. We are rich with national parks and other spots for nature adventures.
Tourists from all over the world have flocked to our land for centuries to see the wonders that our country has to offer. Now that this is not a possibility, it is about time that we Kenyans began exploring our own country anew.
Now is the time to support the local economy in any way we can. Many people working in the tourism industry have lost their income due to the global pandemic. If we have the ability to be generous, we should be taking advantage of the domestic flights to put those individuals back in business.
Kenya is rich with so much diversity, it is easy to be exposed to different cultures right on our own doorstep. It is not necessary to travel abroad to get a little taste of the unknown.
So while we wait for things to get back to normal, why don’t we take advantage of what is right in front of us?
- The writer is personal assistant to the Cabinet Secretary, Devolution and ASALs