Traders protest new Covid-19 guidelines
Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka
A section of the business community has faulted the new Covid-19 operation guidelines issued last week by the government, saying the rules were impossible to implement.
In its second edition of guidelines to the business fraternity, the government reiterated that all stalls and working spaces must maintain at least two metres from one another.
They termed the requirement that traders keep a 1.5 metre distance from customers and transact their deals in mobile money as opposed to cash is among a raft of measures intended to tame infections as too punitive.
A document released by Cabinet Secretary for Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development Betty Maina put the responsibility upon traders urging them to institutionalise basic containment measures and the protocols.
“Our message remains the same, that an abundance of caution is applied in the business to preserve livelihoods while business managers exercise utmost responsibility,” she said.
But traders are already up in arms, saying recent layoffs due to Covid-19 forced more people to join the informal sector, congesting already packed markets thereby making it more difficult to maintain the two metre distance.
In Gikomba market, traders said setting the stalls two metres apart would only mean some of them will lack space.
“Business has been really tough ever since Corona came. We don’t even have money to reconstruct stalls.
We are acquiring the clothes at Covid-19 protocols. We are now trying to save for school fees in January,” said Wangechi wa Tops, a trader in Gikomba.
“Our request to the government is to leave us just the way we are or at least fund us and relocate us to a bigger space. For now we are not in a position to move,” she added.
Wangechi said most of the traders at the market are now working in shifts due to congestion with some sharing stalls due to lack of space.
Her views were supported by Lillian Wanjiru, another trader who said already the traders were practising all tenable solutions such as washing hands, sanitising merchandise and maintaining social distance.
“It will not be possible to maintain the two-metre distance. I for instance, work in shifts, I come in the morning and my partner comes in the afternoon.
Let our sheds remain the way we have constructed them but we will try to maintain social distance,” she said.
She called on the government to rethink the distance requirement, saying it would be impossible to implement them.
Carole Karuga, KEPSA chief executive urged Kenyans to reflect upon and apply lessons from the first wave of the virus.
“We appreciate government’s vigorous efforts in leading the fight against Covid-19, and fully support these efforts.
However, we urge it to urgently respond to the increasing numbers of infections by facilitating the release of more PPE’s to the frontline workers,” she said.
Business owners have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring implementation of the guidelines and expected to appoint a person to be responsible for the enforcement of the Ministry of Health protocols.