A notice by Kilimanjaro restaurant on Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi informing customers of it's closure due to a government directive to control the spread of coronavirus . The restaurants can now re-open but under strict conditions.Picture: Vitalis Rugie

Coronavirus: Hoteliers Against the New Conditions for Re-opening

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On March 22, 2020, the government of Kenya ordered the closure of all bars and clubs in the country effective midnight to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants and other eateries were also ordered to only offer take away services. Many restaurants however opted to temporarily close down.

On March 28 2020 , Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman  read CS Mutahi Kagwe’s speech stating the new conditions that must be met before re-opening.

“Only restaurants and eateries have been granted the window to re-open but only after meeting the requisite standards of hygiene and safety…” read part of the speech.

 

Conditions for re-opening restaurants in Kenya

 

  1. All restaurants shall only operate from 5 am to 7pm.
  2. Restaurants must limit the number of diners or customers to 4 people for every 10 square metres space.
  3. Tables in the dining areas must be spaced 1.5 metres apart in the dining area or seat customer groups at least 1.5 metres apart.
  4. Maintain the distance between the back of one chair to the other, not less than a metre and guests must face each other from a distance of at least one metre apart.
  5. Staff members must maintain 1.5 metres between them, including those in the kitchen.
  6. Alcohol shall only be served with meals in the restaurants and only be served to customers waiting to be served a meal, during the meal or 30 minutes after the meal has ended.
  7. Temporarily discontinue self-service of ready-to-eat foods such as salad bars or buffets.
  8. Customers to have their food delivered individually to the dining table by individually appointed stewards .If buffet is served, it shall only be by one person appointed by the restaurant.
  9. Restaurants to ensure quality and safety of food, to rinse and sanitize food contact surfaces, disinfect surfaces, floors and counters.
  10. Install portable running water and accessible washing basin for hand washing purposes, install alcohol based hand sanitizers at the entrance and exit point.
  11. Restaurants and eateries must install contact free thermometers and ensure that everyone entering the premises has his/her temperatures taken.
  12. Any staff member 0r reveler with temperatures above 37.5 degrees shall not be allowed entry into the premises, and premises shall immediately notify the Ministry of Health through toll free number 719 for guidance.

 

Public reactions to the conditions

 

Some of these conditions have been termed as expensive and impractical by both the hotel owners and the general public.

For example, testing of the restaurants staff is a good idea but what happens after they have been tested? They will still go back home and interact with the public before returning the following day.

Mike Macharia, CEO Hotel Keepers and Caterers Association said that they have advised their members to hold on and not re-open until things change.

“These conditions will essentially mean that restaurant owners will lose 60-70% of their sitting space. Is it really worth it?” said Macharia.

Macharia also raised concerns on the amount of money involved. He further explained that testing for coronavirus is Ksh 10,000 per person. The amount spent will therefore depend on the number of staff a restaurant has.

The thermal guns are also expensive, between Ksh 10,000 and Ksh 20,000. But that is not all, the restaurants are expected to apply for new permits after they have been inspected.

Apart from paying, it is a long process that involves visiting several offices.

This comes at a time when some of the restaurants have been closed for a month or have had very slow business. Despite all these, they still had to pay rent.

According to Macharia, government should have involved them in the discussions so as to come up with reasonable conditions.

 

What journalists should do:

 

  1. Talk to restaurant owners and staff to get their views regarding the new conditions to re-open their businesses.
  2. Find out how those who have re-opened their restaurants are coping with the new working conditions.

 

By Vitalis Rugie