Only 16 percent of the tourist facilities in the Maasai Mara game reserve have met the health and public safety protocol set by the government for reopening.
According to the Narok County governor Samuel Tunai, only seven tourism facilities out of 230 in the greater Mara have received permits to resume business after successfully undergoing inspection.
The seven hotels are Mara Porini Camp, Naboisho Camp, Ashnil Camp, Olseki Camp, Zebra Plains Camp, Little Governors Camp and Mara Serena Camp.
The governor (above) with the Ministry of Health is set to meet camps and lodges owners on the possibility of fast-tracking the process of testing all the stakeholders.
He said his administration is working with the Ministry of Health in providing all necessary support to make the testing accessible and affordable.
Mr Tunai announced that his government had embarked on measures to revive tourism, in particular the re-opening of the reserve under a new health measures.
In that regard, the governor said the county has instituted strict measures to ensure that all facilities in the Mara adhere to international standards of public health safety as precondition for resumption of business.
Among the measures his administration has put in place is testing of all employees in tourism facilities.
“As of today, 400 employees of various facilities have been tested and the processing will continue until all service providers in the Mara are tested. At the same time all tourist facilities in the game reserve and its environs are undergoing public health and tourism standards inspection.
as a condition to resumption of business,’ said Mr Tunai
He said the inspections are being undertaken by two teams of our Health and Tourism departments in conformity with the Tourism and Hospitality Health, Safety and Hygiene Protocols that were recently released by the National Tourism and Hospitality Taskforce under the Guidance of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.
Other measures are his government has set up public health screening points in all the eight (8) major gates into the Maasai Mara. All visitors and employees entering or leaving the park are being screened accordingly.
“As you all know; tourism is a critical contributor to the economic wellbeing of our county as it is a major economic engine to the overall Kenyan economy. The tourism industry has been the worst affected of all major economic sectors due to the covid-19 pandemic,’ said Mr Tunai.
He said, this has greatly affected the economy of Narok County, that used to fetch sh2.4 million annually but for the last 6 months have fetched nothing with virtually all hotels, lodges and camps in the Mara either temporarily closing down or retaining only skeletal staff to maintain the facilities.
“The negative impact of the prolonged downturn of tourism has been so devastating and unprecedented that for the first time ever, the Great Migration of Wildebeests from the Serengeti into the Maasai Mara is happening as we speak without the usual hordes of tourists recording the Eighth Great Modern Wonder of the World,” said Mr Tunai.
The governor said in line with the phased re-opening of the economy the County Government of Narok has embarked on concerted measures to rejuvenate our tourism sector, and in particular to re-open the Maasai Mara Game Reserve for business,” he added.
“While the phased re-opening of the economy has provided much needed relief to the economy, it has also inevitably increased the risk of covid-19 contagion in Narok as in all other counties in Kenya. As a county, we are also aware that the re-opening of the economy constitutes an added burden of duty to our healthcare workers, particularly those handling confirmed cases of infection,” said Mr Tunai.
He said the situation has become all the more critical since the county recorded its first case of infection on 13th June 2020.
The county has recorded 38 cases of confirmed covid-19 patients, of which 29 people among them 22 chinese National have fully recovered. All the cases have been traced and cared for by the medical personnel at the Narok Referral Hospital Isolation Unit.
“Our healthcare workers have also been at the frontline in diligently identifying and placing on quarantine all cases of suspected infections in the county. Over the last four months, our team has supervised the quarantined of 687 persons, of which 621 have successfully completed the mandatory 14-day period,” said the governor.
Key among the county measures is the construction of a 300-bed capacity Isolation Centre at Ololulung’a Sub-County Hospital grounds which consist of three blocks and nearing completion, with the first block expected to be functional in the course of next week.
The new facility will complement our existing isolation centers, which include the 11-bed capacity isolation centre at the Narok Referral Hospital, the 9-bed capacity isolation centre at Trans Mara West Sub-County Hospital, the 10-bed capacity Isolation Centre at Nairegi Enkare Health Centre, and the two 5-bed capacity centres at both Emurua Dikirr Health Centre and Lolgorian Sub County Hospital.