More than 30 per cent of 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.
In addition, because bars and restaurants are working one shift instead of the usual two, 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 5 people.
The entertainment industry supports an entire chain of other sectors, such as taxi operators, bodaboda operators and fresh produce suppliers, and the closure of an establishment means that a lot more people suffer.
From our estimates, the closure of one bar in the rural areas affects a minimum of 20 people while in urban areas such as Nairobi and its environs affects at least 200 people, with a lot more livelihoods affected.
While we have lamented the reduction of operating hours and operating on reduced capacity to allow for social distancing, we have witnessed worrying trends from the transport industry, leaders, and elected representatives. It is important to remember that those of us who have come back to work have still had to pay the levies and operating fees due to the county governments.
Even as the ban on political and roadside gatherings was in January extended to this month, March, we continue to see more and more of them every other day, and without adherence to the measures to limit the spread of Covid-19, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
We, on the other hand, continue to suffer for adhering to the law. Bar and restaurants and their patrons across the country have been on the receiving end as police enforce the measures yet we have not seen any politician punished for holding a gathering 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.
It has become increasingly evident that infection rates are not wholly determined by the fact that this or that sector is in operation as they have been climbing over the past three weeks even with bars and restaurants operating on reduced hours. We believe that with the adherence to the guidelines implemented by our sector, the increasing number of infections could be attributed to other sectors.
In fact, there has been training of bar and restaurant staff by Amref and so far, more than 1,300 bar and restaurant staff have been trained on the Covid-19 safety protocols.
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.
If we continue operating in the current circumstances, our various sectors will continue on a dangerous downhill trend that is likely to result in more suffering and joblessness.
As the country gear to economic recovery, we believe we have now learnt to live with the pandemic and it is time to allow all sectors of the economy to fire up their engines once more and resume the work that will enable Kenya to achieve its ambitions.
As the Federation of Kenya Employers has pointed out, the restoration of taxes means that employers are now burdened with the task of enabling the economy get back on its feet.
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