Op-Ed: Wealthy travellers from Covid-infested countries flock to Kenyan coasts to escape lockdown

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Whilst money can’t buy you happiness, it can certainly get you out of Lockdown. Leisure colonisation at best,! says Agnes Gitau

Agnes Gitau

MIDDLE classes, celebrities and wealthy foreigners are leaving their countries where lockdown measures supported with medical infrastructure and digital technology are being developed rapidly, to parts of the world like Kenya, where they believe enforcement is lax or non-existent  and they can do whatever they are not able to do in their own countries .

This is a form of leisure colonisation exacerbated by desperation for revenue for economies like Kenya.  Despite international travel restrictions from the UK and other countries, people are still able to navigate out of the restrictions to sunny destinations.

Hotels in Kenya’s coast, for example in Lamu, are recording more than 80 percent occupancy rates with rooms going for about $270 a night.  Whilst Lamu and the Kenyan coast have always been popular destinations with tourists, the recent demand is driven by lockdown and restrictions in wealthier countries in Europe and North America and the obvious lack of regulations and strategy (by the host countries) to protect the locals from the super spreaders. For anyone keen to visit KENYA from the UK for example, you only need to show a negative Covid test and you don’t need to be quarantined.

The rise in Covid-19 cases in my view, can be attributed to these foreign travellers who, when the situation gets worse, the tourists will jet off to their countries where they can access free healthcare, after infecting Kenyans where access to quality healthcare is only a dream for the rich.

Official reports on the latest Covid cases estimate that more than 125,000 Kenyans have tested positive with more than 2,000 fatalties. This spike in cases caused the government to introduce restrictions in key parts of the country including the capital Nairobi. In his address to the Nation last Friday President Kenyatta said the decision to impose the restriction was not taken lightly and will certainly come at cost for many, saying, ‘Seventy percent of Kenya’s reported cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru. These counties are individually and collectively declared a disease-infected area. That there shall be a cessation of all movement by road, rail or air into and out of the disease-infected areas as one zoned area.’

What the address and the subsequent statements from the various ministries didn’t say, was the cause of the recent rise in the number of cases in the country. Whilst publications like the Economist, The Times in the UK and others have reported a rising demand for travel to Kenya’s coast by international travellers escaping lockdown in their own countries where Covid cases and fatalities are beyond control Kenya, in desperation to lift the tourism sector which was badly hit by Covid-19, have ignored these reports and allowed travellers from disease infested Europe and North Africa to flock to the country freely. A recent report by the Independent said locals in places like Lamu, Malindi or Diani can hardly get apartments due to high demand as tourists wait out the pandemic in sun and sand.

Agnes Gitau is the Managing Partner at Advisory Services firm GBS Africa where she advises on economic and political risks on investment.

 

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