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Nairobi has been on lockdown since March and was re-opened on July 6, 2020. /MOSES MUOKI.

Kenya

Matatus hike fares on day 1 of upcountry travel from Nairobi

NAIROBI, Kenya July 7 – Kenyans traveling from Nairobi were forced to pay high transport charges, after waiting for more than three months to leave the city that had been on lockdown due to coronavirus.

An order for cessation of movement into and out of the capital city as well as Mombasa and Mandera was lifted by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday.

The main Machakos Country bus station was busy on Tuesday as matatus and buses to various destinations outside Nairobi resumed operations.

But the operators said they were yet to get clearance from the Ministries of Health and Transport, as directed by the President that crew must comply with public health safety regulations.

For routes to Western Kenya like, operators were charging double the normal fares, as confirmed by George Saito, a businessman who was wanted to travel to Webuye. He said was asked to pay Sh3,000, up from Sh1,200.

“The fare has drastically shot up and it is really affecting majority of the passengers who wish to travel back to their homes during this period,” he said.

He said he wanted to travel upcountry to join his family.

“My family is upcountry and at least there I will be assured of good tidings because life is dofficult here in Nairobi,” he said.

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Mutua Kiema, a bus operator plying Nairobi-Mwiki said they hiked the fares to cushion them f after missing business for the last three months.

“We have to make money to survive in this business,” he said, and welcomed the government’s decision to re-open the country.

“We have been without a source of income for such a long time now and it’s a good thing that the roads have been opened. At least money will be in our pockets,” he said.

Others like Elizabeth Ngina maintained that it was imperative for operators to ensure they comply with the government directives before embarking on their journeys.

“I am going home to see my family. The government has done well to open and it is upon everybody now to take personal responsibility,” she said.

Simon Indimuli, a businessman lauded the Head of State for putting his commitment to re-open the economy to action, insisting that his livelihood will now improve.

“I am happy that I can now travel and start making something small for myself,” he said.

President Kenyatta on Monday pleaded with Kenyans to avoid non-essential travel and cautioned that the risk of the virus being exported is very high.

“But to re-open and remain open, you must become your brother’s keeper.  While the government will, no doubt, do its part to achieve the desired wish of remaining open, you the citizen must also do what is expected of you personally to achieve it.  This is, therefore a National Call to civic responsibility,” he said.

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Kenya had registered 8,250 cases and 167 deaths by July 7.

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