By Vanessa Akoth

Barely a week, after the Ministry of Health (MOH) addressed the nation on new restrictions put in place to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 infections, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has launched revised protocols to help curb the spread of the virus in the hospitality sector.

The general protocols to be adhered to by all tourism and hospitality establishments and enterprises include: development of internal guidelines for managing staff/guest interaction within the facility and surrounding environment, developing and implementing documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for handling suspected COVID-19 cases.

The Tourism Regulatory Authority in collaboration with tourism stakeholders will continuously monitor the tourism work environment and recommend necessary enactment to safeguard visitors/guests.

These protocols will collectively serve accommodation and catering services, entertainments, meetings, conferences, Tourist mobile service and transport providers alongside other specific restrictions and guidelines formulated for each establishment.

Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for  Tourism and Wildlife

Also, a negative a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) certificate will be necessary when travelling in and out of the country regardless of a double vaccine.

“Irrespective of your double vaccine the delta variant is more dangerous, we will need you to have a PCR certificate showing negative results for you to come into the country so as to be sure you are not coming in with the virus. When you depart the country, you are also required to take a PCR check so you do not go with the virus outside the country,” said the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala.

Noting that enforcement officers were forcing restaurants to close early, he said: “Nationwide curfew runs from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. restaurant serving stops at 9 p.m. meaning at 9 p.m. everything should close down and allow their employees to go home so by 10p.m every service is shut.”

Additionally, he said that pubs and restaurants that break the law will be shamed by having their names published in a list of shame. Further, not complying with the restrictions and protocols could lead to cancellation of operation licenses for up to a year.

Being that the hospitality sector was among the worst hit by the pandemic, the Cabinet Secretary noted that COVID-19 vaccination will be critical for the recovery of the tourism industry.

Muthondu Macharia during a press briefing

“The main thing that has come into play now is that we now know more about the virus. We also have had interventions in terms of availability of COVID-19 vaccines and this is a key area we have noted in the Tourism and Travels document,” Macharia Muthondu, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers said.

According to Muthondu Macharia, there is need to create a safe environment for visitors in the sector which can only be achieved through uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations by sector players.

“Our clients want to have confidence that they are coming to be served in a safe environment. If they are coming vaccinated themselves, they also want to encounter teams and staff that have been vaccinated,” he said.

The enforcement of the protocols will be led by a team led by Tourism Regulatory Authority and the Multi-Agency Government. Furthermore the ministry will coordinate with COVID-19 command center on any crisis or actions to be taken, he appended.