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Nairobi's Eastleigh is popular with malls and small businesses where one can find everything. /MOSES MUOKI.

Corona Virus

Eastleigh roars back to business after lockdown

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 7- A business lull that lasted for 30 days following cessation of movement in and out Eastleigh area in Nairobi is a thing of the past, barely a few hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will not extend the order, that also covered Old Town in Mombasa.

President Kenyatta extended the night curfew to start at 9pm to 4am from Sunday and opened Eastleigh, Old Town area of Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale.

The lockdown in Eastleigh was eased on June 7, 2020. /MOSES MUOKI.

The restrictions in Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera however, remain in force for 30 more days.

On Sunday, Eastleigh was bustling with activities and cash was once again flowing in the country’s biggest business hub.

The cessation of movement in Eastleigh was lifted from June 7, 2020. /MOSES MUOKI.

Transactions worth an estimated Sh2 billion take place in Eastleigh daily, according to available data.

A truck offloads goods in Eastleigh on June 7, 2020 after the COVID-19 lockdown was eased. /MOSES MUOKI.

Along Eastleigh’s First Avenue, tens of trucks were on Sunday seen offloading goods while Matatus and Boda Boda operators were back to business. There were no more roadblocks.

The silence that characterized the streets was been replaced by noise from public service vehicle operators, hawkers, and other traders shouting out for clients.

The streets are once again crowded while shopping malls like Emirates, Bangkok, and Hongkong were all open.

Eastleigh is now bustling with activity

“We can now comfortably feed our children now that our businesses are back,” a visibly excited resident who only identified himself as Mohamud told Capital FM News.

Eastleigh is said to contribute 25 per cent of the city’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Eastleigh’s stake to the economy cannot be underestimated,” an official of Eastleigh Business Community said.

Most of the residents of the populous estate who spoke to Capital FM News welcomed President Kenyatta’s decision not to extend the lockdown, saying they can once again do business and earn their daily income.

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A police roadblock in Eastleigh estate in Nairobi during the cessation of movement that ended on June 7, 2020. /CFM-FILE.

They were equally elated by the extension of dusk to dawn curfew time, which will now kick in at 9pm and end at 4am.

“It means we will now have more time to do business and also give our clients enough time to do their shopping,” Meshack Waigwa, a trader in Eastleigh said.

They described the 30 days they were locked from the rest of Nairobi as challenging, saying the government should consider giving financial support to the vulnerable and small business owners.

Eastleigh is considered the largest business hub in Nairobi. /MOSES MUOKI.

“Officials captured our details a while back and yet we have never received even a coin, yet we hear millions of shillings have been spent. Who are the beneficiaries?” George Ole Kina, a matatu conductor within Eastleigh said.

Ole Kina was however happy that he can now earn a living, without waiting for aid from the government.

“I believe business will be back. People will start moving in and out of Eastleigh,” he said.

Most residents had their their masks on, to avoid being infected by COVID-19 disease, as they expect back people from other areas, who are largely their clients.

Business was back to normal Sunday after President Kenyatta lifted a curfew. /MOSES MUOKI.

While coronavirus infections in Eastleigh and Old Town in Mombasa have not been fully contained, the President on Saturday said the situation had greatly improved.

He urged Kenyans to continue observing precautionary measures issued by the Ministry of Health, to avoid further spread of the disease that had infected 2,600 people and killed 83 by June 6.

In his address to the nation on Saturday, President Kenyatta said the ban on all forms of gatherings, including churches and political gatherings will remain outlawed as the government seeks to engage stakeholders for a lasting solution.

The Head of State confessed that the question of whether to open the economy or not, was not a matter of being right or wrong, but a dilemma of two rights.

He declared that he will only re-open the economy once infections of COVID-19 go down.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses Kenyans from State House, Nairobi. /PSCU.

“Those who want me to open are right and those opposed to opening are also right. This clash of two rights placed us on the horns of a dilemma. If we had not taken the stringent measures we took in March, the rate of infections in Kenya would have peaked to 800,000 people by the end of July this year,” Kenyatta said.

President Kenyatta said the current containment measures if relaxed by 20 percent, will rise to 200,000 with 30,000 deaths by December.

“If we were to go even further and relax them by 60 percent, the pandemic will peak in October with 450,000 infections with 45,000 deaths. Although,   these projections are generated by a model, our experts have shown us hard evidence suggesting that countries that opened up their economies without proper models, experienced serious waves of infections,” Kenyatta added.

Bars will also remain closed for 30 days, with plans now underway to have schools reopened for third term in September.

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