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Extend curfew relief to other safe sectors

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EDITORIAL

By EDITORIAL
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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s extension of the curfew for another 21 days is a signal that the country should be ready for more painful times ahead.

The country had gone through a 30-day curfew and it was expected that the restrictions would be lifted. But that was not to be.

Also, the president extended the partial lockdown in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi for an additional three weeks, continuing restrictions of movements in and out of those locations.

Since the first coronavirus containment measures were imposed last month, the country has witnessed a massive decline in productivity that has come to bear heavily on the economy.

This is certainly going to get worse. Initial estimates had indicated that the economy would grow by three per cent, half of last year’s. But with the present conditions, that is likely to decline further.

Already, several firms, especially those in the hospitality, horticulture and construction sectors, have declared layoffs. Others have resorted to pay cuts.

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Businesses are struggling and the jua kali sector that supports the bulk of the population is hard hit.

Matters have been made worse by the ongoing heavy rains that have killed people, displaced families and destroyed crops and animals, hence pauperising thousands.

Whereas everyone understands and appreciates the reason for the regulations, it is crucial to think of alternative options to ease the pain.

We take note of the relief already granted, such as tax waivers and cash transfers for the elderly and the disadvantaged. But those are not enough. More needs to be done.

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In stronger economies and jurisdictions, including the US and Europe, governments can afford lockdowns and keep people at home by providing cash and food subsidies.

For instance, those who have lost jobs in the US due to the ravages of the coronavirus are put on what they call furloughs and are given cash for upkeep.

At this point, and with all factors constant, the government should consider easing some of the restrictions to revive the economy and focus on post-Covid-19 recovery and regeneration.

We acknowledge the plans to allow hotels and eateries to reopen and resume work. There are others, too, that can be considered.

The government should critically examine the various sectors and allow those with fewer risks to resume operations. The objective is to allow businesses to thrive and spur the economy as much as we are taking care of the health measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Given the rising infections, citizens must continue to diligently and faithfully observe prescribed health protocols.

But it is critical for the government to enhance relief and ease some of the restrictions to stimulate economic recovery.





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