Governors are pushing for a gradual and conditional reopening of the Kenyan economy amid rising concerns about hardships faced by households and businesses.
Council of Governors chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya said the 47 counties had put in place safety regulations to manage and slow down the spread of Covid-19.
“After consultations with my colleagues, we advise President Uhuru Kenyatta to gradually open the economy,” Mr Oparanya, who is also the Governor of Kakamega, said Tuesday.
“Enforcement of measures and protocols aimed at combating Covid-19 pandemic should continue to be enforced during the process.”
President Kenyatta on June 6 extended a ban on public gatherings for 30 days to curb the spread of coronavirus, restricting entry and exit from the capital and the counties of Mombasa and Mandera for a similar period.
The coronavirus crisis has dealt a blow to the economy over the last more than three months, reducing demand for goods and services across all sectors due to restrictions on movement, night curfew, travel restrictions affecting export and airlines, closure of schools and suspension of social gatherings.
Despite this, President Kenyatta fixed the decision to reopen the economy on the level of preparedness by counties to respond to Covid-19 infections. He will review the restrictions on Monday.
“County readiness to respond to new imported cases of infection will largely determine our national readiness to reopen the country as a whole,” President Kenyatta said on June 25 during a virtual meeting held with the county heads.
“I say this because the nation is the sum total of all the 47 counties. If the counties have met the necessary thresholds, then the nation will be ready to reopen.”
The devolved units were required to roll out minimum Covid-19 response measures before reopening after one month when President Kenyatta extended the countrywide curfew starting at 9pm as well as the cessation of movement in Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera.
In a progress report presented last week by the governors, counties had attained a total of 6,898 isolation beds. This was against the national target of 30,500 units.
About 12 counties had met the 300 per county isolation beds threshold while 34 were reported to be on course to meeting the target within the month.
On human resources, Mr Oparanya reported that a total of 16,914 health personnel had been trained on Covid-19 management among them 59,449 community health volunteers. The report added that 36 counties have a cumulative sum of 343 ICU beds while 28 counties have a total of 337 ventilators.
“Through your directive that allowed county governments to procure non-pharmaceuticals from other agencies, counties have enhanced their response measures,” Mr Oparanya said in the meeting.
His remarks yesterday could, however, mean most of the concerns had since been addressed.
Besides the pandemic’s economic crisis, the health sector is expected to strain the most. This has seen the government begin implementation of home-based isolation and care targeting asymptomatic Covid-19 positive cases.
This programme is expected to manage increasing numbers and the anticipated upsurge in new infections.
The high anticipation of full resumption of activities come as the country crossed the 6,000 mark in infections with highest daily reported new cases increasing in the month of June.
Kenya has so far reported 6,673 positive cases and 149 deaths.
Even with this the pressures to reopen are highly held by the private sector, which remains hard hit. Companies started reporting layoffs in April due to the imposed restrictions, adding to about 771,439 youths that had lost their jobs in the three months to March and before the imposition of the coronavirus regulations.
According to the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), the construction, agriculture and fisheries, security, sports, art and creative and tourism sectors have been worst hit by job losses.
In the recent GDP data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the economic growth slowed down to 4.9 percent in the first three months to March from 5.5 percent last year, affected by uncertainty about pandemic that had impacted other global counties.
A deeper drop is expected to be seen in the second quarter as the country reported its first case on March 12 and imposed the Covid-19 containment restrictions on March 25.