At least 300,000 Kenyans brush past against each other as they jostle for space between 6,000 vehicles every day even as coronavirus silently strangle and grind Kenya to a halt.
As the cabinet secretary, Health Mutahi Kagwe emerges from one televised live address to the nation to the next with latest updates on coronavirus (COVID-19) with number of infected Kenyans 7 so far and government spokesperson, Cyrus Oguna, beseeching Kenyans to avoid crowded areas and brace for more tougher measures, business is normal at Kenya’s busy Likoni channel.
Currently, four ferries namely; MV Likoni, MV Kwale, MV Jambo and MV Kilindini labour past each other packed with commuters breathing hard on each other’s neck between the Mombasa island and the South Coast some 500m-long apart.
Operations of the ferries at the Likoni channel are still on at full throttle. One vessel carries between 1,400 and1,600 people and more than 50 vehicles at a go.
This means travellers don’t have the luxury to maintain social distancing as part of precautions against coronavirus.
Not to be blamed for doing nothing, on Saturday, Mombasa county security committee led by Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo and Governor Hassan Joho announced that the government will provide hand washing detergents and running water for commuters depending on the old and creaky ferries. At least 100 taps at both sides of the channel to allow commuters to wash their hands before getting in the ferries was in the pipeline as KFS officials and Mombasa County’s public health officials joined hands.
However, come Tuesday morning and water and washing detergents was still not in sight. Instead, the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) management fumigated the four vessels and said it was one of the measures to deal with the spread of the virus.
Left on their own device aboard the ferries, some fearful commuters have only their thin and porous handkerchiefs and scarfs to cover their faces as they fight to keep the deadly coronavirus at bay.
In the same breath, the government has urged the thousands of commuters to bear with it and delays should now be accepted at the crossing, a little sacrifice for the general well being of everyone it said.
“we must do that in order for us to stay safe as a country, because there isn’t a country without people”. said Mr Oguna as quoted by Business Daily, a local publication.
Clearly ahead of the government, Ferry users’ association chairman Michael Ogwambo called on the government to put thermal scanners at both sides of the channel and screen people who board the vessels.
“Commuters are so much exposed in those ferries yet nothing has been done so far. KFS should take the matter seriously and implement the preventive measures needed,” said Mr Ogwambo.
Meanwhile, the national government while putting a brave face yesterday saw President Uhuru Kenyatta declare Saturday, 21st March as a National Prayer Day for the country amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Getting a little jittery, on Tuesday, hundreds of Nairobians flee the city back to the village causing heavy traffic in their wake as they hoped against all odds to stay one step ahead of the coronavirus epidemic and its ripple effects.