Members of the hospitality industry have pledged to collaborate with the Government to help implement protocols to limit the spread of Covid-19.
This follows an engagement between the National Multi-Agency Command Centre (NMACC), the hospitality industry, and alcoholic beverages manufacturers that is intended to reinforce the measures in place during the pandemic.
The agreement was announced at a press conference at the Nairobi Serena Hotel attended by NMACC officials and representatives from the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya, the Bar, Hotels and Liquor Traders Association and the Alcoholic Beverages Association of Kenya.
The Government agencies and the private sector players also launched a communication campaign for the sector dubbed ‘Jibambe, Jilinde, Jikinge’ to push for the adherence to the Covid-19 protocols in the hospitality industry.
NMACC Commander, Major-General Ayub Matiri, said the expectation from the Government is that the trade associations and the hospitality industry as a whole should take a lead role in the enforcement of the protocols to enable the revival of the crucial sector, which has been among the worst-hit by the effects of the pandemic.
“We pushed for this collaboration because of the important role the hospitality industry plays in Kenya’s economic growth. Apart from the role that the Government plays, we felt it would also be useful to tap into the networks that exist in order to ensure that recovery of the sector is fast tracked,” said Maj-Gen Matiri.
“NMACC has partnered with this sector to ensure that there is no significant spread of the virus as they undertake to sell alcohol but also ensure that employment is secure,” he added in a message read by his representative.
Interior ministry representative Isaac Masinde challenged the associations to take the campaign to the ground: “As the private sector, work closely with the national Government officials close to where you are – chiefs, police commanders. We want to see this campaign in the village.”
He said with the next surge forecast for July, there is now focus on Kisumu, Kisii and Kericho because of the Indian variant that has been found in the region around Lake Victoria.
NMACC oversees the implementation of the Covid-19 protocols and advises the Government on the action to be taken to curb the spread of the highly infectious disease.
Members of the alcoholic beverages trade associations pledged to ensure their members abide by the Ministry of Health guidelines as well as mechanisms for self-regulation and reporting.
Specifically, members of the trade associations will form small groups of bars and restaurants that operate within the same area, known as ‘Bar Kumi’, to encourage adherence with the law. The association also encouraged the use of the Mulika app, through which members of the public can report breaches of the law and corruption incidents.
“We believe that “Bar Kumi”, where we have establishments working together to ensure the law is followed, is a useful social accountability method to ensure the right thing is done,” said Frank Mbogo, chairman of the Nairobi chapter of the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (PERAK).
Mr Mbogo said chief among the protocols is to ensure social distancing amongst staff and customers, extra ventilation in outlets and expansion of seating areas to outdoor spaces.
“We are already working with all other stakeholders to continue and extend installation of physical assets to limit the spread of Covid-19, such as Perspex screens, sanitiser dispensers, and washing stations. We will also work with other stakeholders to liaise with the Public Health Officers on Covid-19 so that the designated staff within the establishments can work with them,” said Mr Mbogo.
BAHLITA secretary general Boniface Gachoka said: “At the peak of the pandemic in January, more than 20,000 bars were closed. We’ll engage with the Government to see that our members adhere to the protocols and we secure the livelihoods of the workers by keeping establishments going.”
ABAK chairperson Eric Githua said the collaborations by alcohol manufacturers would extend to all stakeholders.
“Our commitment in the engagement today therefore pertains to our overall responsibility at company level and collectively as an industry,” said Mr Githua.
He said alcohol manufacturers had committed to “only sell alcoholic drinks to retailers who have a valid liquor/alcoholic drinks license. For this, we’ll collaborate with alcohol distributors to ensure no product is sold to outlets flouting set Covid-19 guidelines.”
ABAK will also help roll out campaigns to educate revelers on the need to limit the spread of Covid-19 even as they seek to have their rest and relaxation.
The hospitality industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, as efforts to restrict interactions resulted in the closure and then partial reopening of restaurants, bars and hotels across the country. The reduction of opening hours and the rolling nationwide curfews have also reduced drinking hours.
More than 15,000 bars across the country have been closed as a result.