Step up border Covid-19 screening to avoid UK ban


Terminal 1A at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya finds itself in a catch-22 situation. The UK), concerned about Kenya’s reluctance to close its border with Tanzania which has alarmed much of the world with its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, is reported to be considering adding Nairobi to it ‘red list’ of high risk countries.

Essentially, this will see any traveller coming from Kenya mandatorily subjected to a 10-day isolation in a UK hotel at a cost of Sh265,755. This is an outcome that Kenya should avoid at all costs.

Besides the huge financial implication to individual travellers, it would be a big blow to the country’s aviation and tourism sectors.

With South Africa, Qatar, Ethiopia and United Arab Emirates already on the ‘red list’, Nairobi remains the last major hub for connecting flights to the UK.

On the other hand, caving in and closing the border with Tanzania is fraught with risks.

Tanzania remains a key trading partner for Kenya, with billions of shillings worth of transactions happening across the border every day.

So crucial is the trade that, for instance, the slightest disruption in the movement of fresh produce from the neighbouring country is usually felt across local markets and households.

One need only look back to the financial hit suffered by small traders last year when Kenya closed the border in its push for better Covid-19 screening of transporters to appreciate how costly such a decision would be.

With our economies so interlinked, Kenya can’t afford to alienate its neighbour.

To keep the country off the UK’s ‘red list’ while maintaining the good ties with Tanzania, the government appears to have only one clear choice — to step up Covid-19 screening at the border points.

Currently travellers transiting through Kenya are required to produce evidence of a Covid-19 test taken within 96 hours of flying.

Kenya should ensure that such results are easily available in an electronic format for verification to calm the nerves of the UK authorities.