As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, many ordinary Kenyans are struggling to adjust to the new life of washing hands, wearing masks, staying indoors, and avoiding crowded places. However, life must continue, and many are trying hard to make some income and put food on the table. I caught up with a Boda Boda operator, and this is how life has changed for him and those in the Boda Boda industry.
1. What's your official name?
2. A nickname/stage-name/ pen-name, if you have any?
3. What do you do for a living?
I am a Boda Boda operator.
4. Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard the news of Kenya announcing the first Case of COVID-19?
I was parking in my designated stage in Njugu-ini, Athi River, waiting for customers when I heard that news on the radio.
5. Where are you presently?
In Athi River
6. Up until now, how has the pandemic affected your lifestyle and your work?
This pandemic has affected me in many ways. First, there are few customers now. Most are preferring to stay indoors as directed by the GOK. Also, they fear spending. I guess they're saving money in anticipation of a possible lockdown.
Because of that, and coupled by the GOK directive that we should only carry one passenger, my earnings have reduced by more than a half. Before this pandemic, I used to earn around Kshs 1,500 in a day. Now I can barely make Kshs 500.
I used to make numerous trips carrying those working in EPZ, Portland Cement, Graylands, and many other companies around, but now many of these companies are closed. There are no pupils to carry because schools are also closed. It takes long before I get a customer.
This issue of curfew has reduced the number of hours I work, from 13 hours to only 10 hours.
Also, I have a lot of anxiety and fear whenever I carry passengers who are not wearing masks. I fear I might get the disease and pass it on to my family.
7. Are you satisfied with what the GOK is doing to contain the situation? If No, what workable solutions would you suggest for GOK?
Yes, they have done a pretty good job. I only wish they could have stopped international passenger flights earlier.
I also don't understand how a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 and is admitted in a hospital can escape. I heard that a patient escaped from Mbagathi hospital. If it is true, then I blame the GOK. Yaani, how lazy can they be to allow such a risky thing to happen?
8. What lessons have you learnt from the pandemic so far?
I have learned that the GOK is also caring. They have been cautioning citizens not to be in crowded places. They have been telling us to wash our hands and stay at home. Also, they said they would provide for us free masks. Though I haven't received any mask, I believe they will give out the masks. I never knew our government could do such things. It is long since we felt the government's concerned.
9. If you survive this pandemic, what would you do differently?
If I survive this disease, I will change jobs. Yes, I will not be a Boda Boda operator anymore. It is too risky. Apart from numerous accidents, we, Boda Boda guys, are more exposed to respiratory diseases. In a place like Athi River, we breathe in a lot of dust, which affects our respiratory organs. And now this coronavirus. We are more exposed to it than any other person. I just don't want to risk my life that way.
10. How is your daily routine like?
I wake up at 6 am. Dress and hit the road by 6.20 am.
I usually stay in the field until 10 am when I go back to the house for breakfast. After 20 minutes of breakfast break, I hit the road again till 1 pm.
After lunch, I rest a bit for 30 minutes. I hit the road again from 1.30 pm until around 6.50 pm when I close work and head straight home just before the 7 pm curfew starts.
Tomorrow, the same routine. I haven't thought of staying at home, because I know it will not be easy when money is not there. Just two days ago, my landlord came to ask for rent, and I paid in full. I thought he would be a little more sympathetic to the situation right now but, wapi? So lazima nitoke nje ntafute ya chakula.