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Business has largely resumed in downtown Nairobi despite containment measures.

Capital Health

Downtown Nairobi roars back to business after lull over COVID-19 fears

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27- Downtown Nairobi is back to business after a month of inactivity over fears of coronavirus, and in compliance to social distancing measures declared by the government.

It was a beehive of activity Monday, as most retail and wholesale shops re-opened, with hawkers also displaying their wares on the streets.

Most businesses were closed or started operating on restricted hours in mid March when the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country.

For weeks, the trademark noise from hawkers and matatu touts was replaced by deafening silence in most streets.

“Yes, we have been asked to stay at home, but can you operate matatus through online platforms?” Samuel Matu, a matatu operator posed to this Reporter when asked about their business status.

For weeks, most stalls at Imenti House – a popular shopping mall on Moi Avenue with dozens of small businesses remained closed.

But on Monday, a spot check by Capital News revealed that operations were back to normal.

“As you can see, I have my mask on and the sanitizer is also here. I will do my part to prevent the spread of that disease as I earn my daily bread,” Ian Mutahi, an M-Pesa attendant said.

Like Mutahi, many traders said they are propelled by the urge to meet immediate needs like food “to risk our lives” and open our businesses.  

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Kenya had recorded 363 positive cases for coronavirus and 14 deaths by April 27.

As businesses re-opens, Public Service Vehicle operators said they were hopeful of sustained operations.

They, however, said they feel neglected by the government since they are not covered in any of the outlined measures meant to cushion Kenyans against the economic meltdown.

“If everyone stays at home, who will we ferry?” Matu asked.

“Ours is a daily wage, without people, there will be no work for us. We are not in any of the categories announced by the President and it seems we have been forgotten,” he said.

Matu and his colleagues are only holding on the memories specifically during the electioneering period- when they become favorites among politicians.

“We are usually the first target of our politicians. But now we are being treated as less humans,” James Waigwa, a matatu tout said.

In the Central Business District of the capital Nairobi, parking lots were occupied and even ‘parking boys’ were back in the streets.   

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has outlined strict measures for businesses to resume, particularly restaurants which will be required to limit the number of customers to 4 people for every 10 square metre space.​

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“Tables in the dining areas must be spaced 1.5 metres apart in the dining area or seat customer groups at least 1.5 metres apart,” Kagwe told a Parliamentary Committee on Health Monday.


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