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BY UPESI REPORTER,NAIROBI,6TH MAY 2020-Senators in the Transport Committee on Wednesday called for periodical closure of operations at the Kenya Ferry Services in Mombasa following concerns that it is a high risk infection area for COVID-19.
The proposal was fronted during a virtual meeting with Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.
Kitui Senator Enock Wambua said coronavirus infection numbers from Mombasa were worrying.
By Tuesday, 169 cases and 12 deaths had been reported in Mombasa County, many of the in Old Town area.
“Let the ferry services be suspended for a specific period and see what effect and impact that would have on lives because lives are better that livelihoods,” he said.
He clarified that the proposal was not insensitive but was aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.
“We are not insensitive to the plight of Kenyans who cross the ferry to go to work or do business, but that sensitivity must also be balanced against the dangers that we expose these same people and this country when we allow the services to continue as they are,” he said.
According to the Kenya Ferry Services, at least 300,000 people and 5,000 vehicles use the services daily.
Wambua regretted that the social distancing directive was not been regarded by those who use the services with concerns that the spread of the virus in the region would increase if no action is taken.
Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga argued it would be unwise to disregard the option and challenged officials at the Kenya Ferry Services to do better.
“It is really my strong opinion that having understood how this virus is moving around and how this virus is supposed to be managed and given the case studies conducted in other countries, the services should be suspended almost immediately,” she said.
Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya said the ferry channel had proved to be a weak link in the fight against the virus and warned that the risk of the increased number of infections was imminent if the status quo is to be maintained.
“No doubt something needs to be done at the ferry if the situation is to be controlled,” he said.
Mombasa Senator Mohammed Faki said the proposal is not feasible and challenged his colleagues to consider other options instead. He noted that it would be unfair to the residents whose source of livelihoods solely depend on crossing the ferry to look for income.
“We have to balance the livelihoods of the people and their right to movement. What is happening at the ferry is not worse than what is happening at the markets in every part of the country. So the idea of closing the ferry should not be on the table,” he said.
Committee Chairman Kimani Wamatangi cautioned Senator Faki to be cognizant of the dangers posed at the ferry and reminded him that “two wrongs do not make a right”.
Cabinet Secretary Macharia told the senators that consultations were ongoing to see how best it can be implemented to avoid inconveniencing the thousands of people who use the services.
“A multi-agency team is constantly reviewing what the implications would be if the services are halted and as we review these developments a proper pronouncement would be made soon,” he said.
He however, defended the move by the Kenya Ferry Services to compel passengers caught off past the 7pm curfew period to sleep at the ferry holding areas.
He said the dusk-to-dawn curfew that was sanctioned by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus should be strictly adhered to and the government would not relax the directive to accommodate those flouting it.
“Being late is not an excuse and therefore compliance is key and that is not negotiable. It’s a matter of life and death,” he said.
Mombasa county has tested over 3,279 people.
The total number of infections in the country stood at 535 people by Tuesday with 24 deaths and 182 recoveries.