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Travellers protest confusion, pricey quarantine hotels

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 20:45 |
Arriving passengers board a bus at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. They are subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine. Photo/PD/Kenna CLAUDE

Irene Githinji and George Kebaso

Confusion, long days without clear communication at the airport and exorbitant accommodation rates by hotels are some of the challenges that have turned quarantine of travellers into a nightmare.

Following the order by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe that  passengers jetting into the country must be quarantined, travellers are being forced into selected hotels in Nairobi, where they are required to pay for their upkeep for 14 days they will be in isolation.

Kenya has 25 confirmed cases of the virus, the CS said yesterday the measures are meant to tame the spread.

The situation is not any better at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), it emerged, as guests complained that they were crammed up into a stuffy, poorly ventilated room for hours without any information on their next move.

They also complained of  lack of government supply of protective gear such as masks, sanitisers and gloves, adding that they were denied food for the nearly 10 hours they stayed at the airport

Increased arrivals

Passengers who spoke to People Daily complained that the one-metre distance rule was not being observed. 

There was, for instance, confusion yesterday when travellers who had been ferried to Kenyatta University were re-routed to a different facility after the university’s management declined to allow them in.

Apart from protests over the exorbitant hotel rates and ill treatment at JKIA, there was also concern about the level of preparedness of the designated hotels as well as on the part of government to accommodate the high number of arrivals.

Travellers from various countries said they could not afford the accommodation, with some hotels charging Sh12,000 per night.

“Hotels are expensive. For instance we are expected to pay about Sh10,000 a day for the next 14 days.

It is a sad situation because those without money are denied rooms and sleep on floor yet some of them look sick,” said Francis Luchivya, a presenter with our sister radio station, Milele FM.

He arrived Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Monday at around 7pm from Mwanza, Tanzania where he had visited his relatives.

Taking advantage

 He has been put on mandatory quarantine at Pride Inn Hotel in Nairobi, one of the facilities picked for the mandatory isolation. It will cost him Sh140,000 to stay at the facility for the next two weeks.

“Some of those forced into the hotels are not able to raise the accommodation charge which goes up to Sh175,000 in some hotels for the 14 days, forcing them to sleep on the floor since they cannot leave until the period is over,” said the presenter.

While an official from the Ministry of Health said the government had negotiated with the hotels to lower the amount, the hotel managements were still taking advantage of them.

Among 86 hotels picked for quarantine are Hill Park Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn at the Airport, Hilton Hotel (Nairobi CBD), Safari Park, Pride Inn Hotels, Jacaranda, Trademark Hotel at Village Market, Four Points by Sheraton (Hurlingham), Lamada and Boma hotels.

For instance, the cost per night at the hotel Four Point by Sheraton costs Sh10,000 which translates to Sh140,000 in 14 days.

A group of travellers who were taken to Boma protested that they could not afford Sh12,000 a day, which amounts to Sh168,000 for the two weeks they stay at the hotel.

Yesterday, Kagwe, in his daily updates on the virus acknowledged that the cost of the hotels was a challenge and termed charging the passengers high rates as “immoral”.

“The hotels where this people are staying must not take advantage of them. It is immoral to take advantage of persons who have no choice.

If anything...they should be sacrificing. But to add on huge profits on the backbone of suffering Kenyans is really unacceptable,” said the CS.

But his appeals appears to be falling on deaf ears as management of the hotels, whose business has been hard hit by the pandemic, remain keen making a kill from the situation.

Mutahi yesterday attributed the challenges to the huge number of travellers, but saying they had “streamlined things”.

“There have been challenges particularly at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as well as the designated hotels and government facilities where we are taking the travellers for mandatory quarantine.

The was bound to happen because of the huge numbers that are coming in while at the same time we don’t want don’t want to leave anything to chance,” he said

Those who are currently arriving in the country are Kenyans of diverse careers, from different countries and students, some of whom cannot afford the hotel charges. 

The process of putting the travellers on quarantine is also challenging and it taking hours, thereby tiring and inconveniencing.

Luchivya said when the government issued travel directive, he immediately sought ways to make his way back to Nairobi, only to find out that bus companies had already halted their commuter services until further notice.

“When I saw the order issued on Sunday on cross-border movement, I sat there trying to calculate what my next course of action would be.

I reached out to Modern Coast, but they said they have temporarily stopped services so I booked a flight back home,” said Luchivya yesterday.

Everybody arriving from different countries, according to him, was being “detained” and then subjected to check-ups.

They were also given forms to fill indicating where they had arrived from and for how long they had been in the destinations.

At least 400 of them, he said were then escorted to the immigration section and what followed was a long wait with no communication and none of them was allowed to leave.

Several hours later, people started protesting because they had all been bundled up in a room and only then that an immigration official emerged and addressed them.

“We have been given orders from above to place all those arriving into the country under mandatory quarantine.

Those who are willing to go will be escorted to designated facilities and those who do not want to go will remain within the airport premises,” the official allegedly told them.

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