At last, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the much-awaited national address, announcing various measures put in place by the government to combat Covid-19.
Kenyans were patiently waiting on the Head of State to make pronouncements on the opening of schools, suspension or retaining of the curfew, opening of bars and clubs, and measures to contain the pandemic.
Parents were patiently waiting on President Uhuru to give the way forward on the reopening of schools. This was after the Cabinet Secretary of Education Professor George Magoha had given confusing and conflicting statements on the reopening of learning institutions.
George Magoha and his team had insisted that schools were set to reopen between October 4th and 19th, sending chills down the spines of parents whose pockets have been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic.
The reopening of schools
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said that schools will only reopen after the country is sure of the safety of the learners as well as the extent of Covid-19.
“We must put the safety of our children first. I direct the Ministry of Education to assess the situation and determine whether the schools should reopen before or after 2020,” said the President.
President Kenyatta’s words came as music to the ears of most parents, who, despite wanting their kids back in school, was skeptical of the actual situation of Covid-19 in Kenya.
The Teacher Service Commission (TSC) had already directed all teachers to report to school on Monday (September 28, 2020) to prepare for the reopening of schools.
Both Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and KUPPET had given the reopening of schools a clean bill of health, saying teachers were ready to get back to class provided the protocols set were followed.
The announcement by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the reopening of schools, however, came heavily on the private school owners, as well as teachers in private schools who were looking forward to the reopening to salvage their businesses.
“We were really looking forward to the reopening of schools. President Uhuru Kenyatta was our only hope. Now we have no hope of ever recovering,” said Mr. Tim Ngaira, a private school owner.
The nationwide curfew that has been in place for more than 90 days has been described by most Kenyans as “useless” with little to show out of it.
“The nationwide curfew was only successful during the first 30 days. After that, what followed was just rhetoric. Even the police themselves are tired of enforcing it,” said a resident in Nairobi.
It was expected that President Uhuru Kenyatta would suspend the curfew and let Kenyans go back to the normal life of moving around sometimes the whole night.
Interestingly, President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the nationwide curfew by 60 days. The only thing that has changed is the timing. The extended curfew will be kicking off at 11 pm and end at 4 am daily.
“The nationwide curfew is hereby extended for a further 60 days,” said the Head of State.
Bars and restaurants
Kenyans will be allowed to be back in bars and restaurants after President Uhuru Kenyatta suspended the earlier directive that had prohibited bars and clubs to cut down on the Covid-19 spread.
In the new directive, bars and restaurants will be allowed to operate to 10 pm daily and “should strictly adhere to the Covid-19 health protocols.”
The protocols include having customers sit at least 1 meter apart, workers wearing masks, measure temperatures of all customers, and ensure there is always enough water for washing hands.
Bars owners had called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to allow them to operate saying they had registered massive losses as a result of the lockdown.
VAT to remain at 14 percent
President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the National Treasury to retain the Value Added Tax (VAT) at 14 percent to July 1, 2021.
The VAT was reduced from 16 percent as a measure to cushion Kenyans against the heat of Covid-19 that had hit hard on the economy.
At the same time, Uhuru has directed the National Treasury to retain the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) at 25 percent to January 1, 2021.
The reduction of the VAT was also aimed at shielding small businesses, the majority of which have shut down as a result of Covid-19.
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