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Coronavirus hit on economy: A drive from Western to Nairobi

• Driving along the Nairobi-Kisumu highway, one is shocked at how much life has changed in less than a month.

• But perhaps the hardest hit is public transport since the government banned entry and exit of passenger vehicles in and out of Nairobi on April 6.

COVID-19 FEARS: A medical official takes a resident’s temperature at Meru Level 5 Hospital.
Image: DENNIS DIBONDO

The damage caused by Covid-19 to the economy in Western Kenya is palpable and visible.

Stretching all the way from Luanda, Majengo and Kisumu and to Nairobi, the pandemic’s claws are visible – deep and painful

Major and small towns, markets and hitherto bustling shopping centres are struggling amidst Covid-19 containment measures.

Driving along the Nairobi-Kisumu highway, one is shocked at how much life has changed in less than a month.

But perhaps the hardest hit is public transport since the government banned entry and exit of passenger vehicles in and out of Nairobi on April 6.

In downtown Kisumu, for instance, from the buses that end their trips at the country bus stop, to the prestigious shuttles and the dodgy Toyota Voxy matatus,  the city is feeling the heat of the measures.

The bus park in Kisumu is almost a ghost town with the absence of buses. The stage is now being used by matatus headed to other towns.

The fishing and food industry has not been spared. Fishermen lament that the 5pm-7am curfew has interfered with their daily routine as they cannot fish at night. When I arrived at Dunga Beach around 8:30am, the boats were docking but only vendors interested in omena had a smile on their faces.

Crowds and establishments that depend on the outlet for their daily fish were disappointed as they could not get any fish that Thursday morning. The nearby Hippo Point, well-known for its open-air fish eateries was flooded.

Out of Kisumu towards Ahero, one quickly notices how traffic has reduced on the usually busy road that serves as an exit and entry route to Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan.

This is the new phenomenon all the way to Nairobi.

Past Awasi town and as one starts to ascend towards Kericho, the vendors selling fresh produce on the roadside have suddenly increased and so are their wares. 

This is because most markets in the towns along the road have been closed to contain the spread of coronavirus. 

Driving through Kericho, well-known for its tea growing, one cannot fail to notice the numerous hand washing points in the town. At every turn and corner, there’s water and soap for one to wash whether walking into a supermarket or a bank. I couldn’t get a place to drink tea as all restaurants have obeyed government directives and closed down. 

James Kitur, an attendant at one of the supermarkets, tells me most restaurants and hotels closed down as they had no patrons after the directives on how food should be sold.

Past Kericho to Chepseon in Kipkelion, the robust vegetable market by the roadside is non-existent after police once used teargas to disperse the traders who were not following Covid-19 advisory by the Ministry of Health.

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