Things are getting a little more dire in Naivasha as the pandemic closes in.
NAIVASHA, Kenya- There isn’t a total lockdown yet but every few days new rules and restrictions are implemented. The government is reluctant to enforce a total lockdown, as they know people need to be on the streets to trade. Whether buying or selling, trading puts dinner on the table each night.
I went into town to get some food supplies. It had been a few days since I had last ventured out. Going out each day, even if only for 30 minutes sure does help.
I was shocked. Activity on the towns few streets was very much reduced.
I took a cup of tea and some ‘mandazi’ at the Hot Plate restaurant where I used to get all my meals when I first arrived in Naivasha. It’s not a fancy place. There are no fancy places. It’s a place where locals come, a ‘hole in the wall’ type place.
The cafe can’t even be breaking even unless both members of the staff are family and are working for free.
My guys at the guest house are on 50% salary. Four have quit. Naivasha is a town like many in Kenya and, indeed, across the globe which rely on tourism. International and domestic. Most visitors come up from Nairobi, but just before Easter they put up road blocks. And no there is no inter-county travel at all.
I am not sure how the four guys who quit will support themselves. I thought that 50% salary is better than no salary, especially when I am here with just one other guest and those who chose to stay on can spend their days watching YouTube and still get paid. I assume they have some sort of support from family members. But I don’t like to pry.
The other industry here is commercial flowers. They have closed down, as the only goods that are moving are essential items only.
The Hot Plate restaurant is at the epi-center of Naivasha. It’s where the matatus (small mini vans) in normal times would all depart from. They had been operating at 50% capacity, with fares doubled to cover the costs for about 3 weeks. Now there are no departures.
The supermarket is pretty empty too, but the shelves are well stocked. There is no panic buying. People live hand to mouth here. They don’t have excess cash to buy a month’s supply. They don’t even have excess cash to buy a week’s supply. They work to put food on the table each night.
One of the markets has re-opened though, with the number of stalls reduced so that social distancing can occur naturally rather than forcing it by restricting numbers.
Hand washing facilities have been set up outside nearly all shops.
The matatus aren’t running, the hotels are closed. The restaurants around Lake Naivasha are closed. The flower businesses are closed. No one is making much money. People across the globe make their livelihoods from tourism and from the transportation of people and goods. This is having a devastating impact. More so in developing countries — they haven’t got anyone to bail them out. There are no government handouts here.
I have been here five weeks now. There is still one other guest who I have met just once. She is from Tanzania. She works in town and was due to go home but she is still here as she can’t go anywhere. Like me. Like everyone.
The British government is trying hard to get people out. But they are up against it too. Only people in Nairobi have a chance of getting to the airport, as all routes into and out of the capital are blocked. And as the tweet mentions, 70 people didn’t show. And this was before the inter-county travel restrictions were put in place. It’s easy to navigate the curfew. Just get to the airport before 7pm. It’s not rocket science. I hope those 70 had a valid reason!
A quick update for those of you looking for a flight back to the UK: we are still working on it, we get why some of you are frustrated, here’s an explanation of what we are doing. Stay in touch via returnfromKenya@fco.gov.uk and #staysafe #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/9JxTkQYoD1
— Jane Marriott (@JaneMarriottFCO) April 17, 2020
These evac flights are commercial flights and are not solely for UK nationals. Flights are coming in empty. The crew don’t get off the plane and you need more crew to fly the plane back. That’s why the tickets are expensive. Kenyans have asked why Kenyans can’t come home. The Kenyan embassies around the world have to liaise with local authorities and also with the Kenyan government who put the lockdown on all arrivals and, of course, flights will still be 1000$+ and then they will be forced into 14 days or more quarantine upon arrival. Huge financial implications.
A couple of times I have thought, ‘I should get out of here while I can.’ But now I can’t, even if I wanted to.
Here, I am safe. I’m am living affordably. Just that nagging thing, ‘how long does this shit go on for?’.
Looking on the bright side, there is a bright side?
As soon as the all clear to travel again is given, I am poised to get moving. Uganda is just a day’s travel away. I have the next 3 years of travel pretty mapped out.
The British High commissioner wrote this report about how the UK is helping with Kenya’s supply chain.
Reading this, I am happy that I am here. The UK has a good relationship with Kenya.
I am doing OK. I am still on the road. Not going anywhere, mind you, and I don’t expect to be for quite a while. Yet things could be worse. A lot worse. I could be in DRC. Now that wouldn’t be fun.