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VIDEO: It’s a living hell for Kenyans flying back from overseas

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Overwhelming numbers, poor planning and Kenyans’ indiscipline have been blamed for the mess that is the quarantine plans for passengers arriving from abroad.

With the government expecting at least 3,000 international passengers, the selected hotels for self-quarantine had not anticipated such numbers.

The reality of being a passenger arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) during this Covid-19 season hit hard for 22-year-old Okari Wabunya and 20-year-old Jamie Nyamongo when their KQ plane from London touched down Tuesday at 4:30am.

The two are university students in London and among dozens of passengers who were Tuesday held at JKIA for about four hours before they could be screened and allocated a National Youth Service (NYS) bus to transport them to selected mandatory quarantine facilities.

The Nation caught up with them outside PrideInn Rhapta in Westlands. They were stranded and confused after missing space at the hotel, with their parents following behind but keeping a safe distance.

While for them their main problem was not how to pay for their 14-day stay at any hotel, other passengers who had travelled in the same bus with them had to get alternative accommodation because they could not afford to stay at the hotel.

They said the hotel was charging $60 (Sh6,380) per night, an amount they felt was too expensive.

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“Initially, we had been told there were 16 spaces at the hotel but upon arrival, the management said it had been fully booked. We are waiting to see what will happen. We are willing to quarantine ourselves even here but the whole process needs to be better planned,” Mr Wabunya said.

The two came home for the upcoming Easter holidays now that schools in London have closed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“There was no point of staying there when we just wanted to be with family,” said Mr Nyamongo.

After waiting outside the hotel for several hours, the team was driven to the University of Nairobi’s School of Business in Lower Kabete, where they met with another team that had been ferried to the venue by a NYS bus. But for some reason, both teams could not be accommodated there.

In the midst of the confusion, the two teams mingled with each other, made contacts with family and the officers escorting them, oblivious of the danger they were exposing each other to.

Later, the two buses were sent to different locations. The Nation followed a team of about 10 passengers, including a child, who were driven to Corat Africa, next to Catholic University of Eastern Africa. They arrived at about 2pm, hungry and still nursing some jet lag.

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Mr John Mutwiri Miriti, a master’s student at the London School of Economics, said they arrived at JKIA on Monday night and were only allowed to leave the airport yesterday at 7.20am.

He said they spent almost an entire day in a bus looking for accommodation. From JKIA, they were driven to Kenyatta University, where they were denied access. They were then driven to PrideInn Hotel, then UoN and finally to Corat Africa, where accommodation was available for nine.

“This is a new phenomenon to all of us, but we are asking the Ministry of Health to make the logistics more bearable. At least ensure that we get water, meals and accommodation with no much trouble,” said Mr Miriti.

Sources at Kenyatta University said the institution opened its doors to over 60 passengers on Monday night. They are staying at the conference centre. The sources said the university did not have extra accommodation as students left their belongings in the hostels.

PrideInn Hotel, which had been closed temporarily, was reopened on Monday night to accommodate passengers arriving via JKIA. A team that arrived Tuesday from Addis Ababa, Juba and other cities mingled with each other as they shared a breakfast meal that was served in a buffet.

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Despite the hotel indicating that all customers would be subjected to utmost screening using thermo guns by trained staff, passengers who are booked there said they are yet to be taken through any procedure. Staff at the hotel served the passengers without wearing face masks.

One passenger, who requested anonymity, said he had sat next to a woman who arrived from the US inside the bus that took them to PrideInn.

“While I had my face mask on, she had no protective gear, but we kept talking and sharing our experiences,” the passenger said.

“We came from different cities but have shared utensils and mingled freely. Is this how quarantine is conducted? Our company had made reservations for us at a hotel on Thika Road, where the firm’s doctor was meant to attend to us, but we were forced to come here.”

“The bills are high, who will cater for them? We arrived at a time when they had closed due to lack of customers but they opened and called in some few staff, who helped us to settle. The rooms are dusty, we are mingling freely and it’s chaotiC.

-Nation.co.ke

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Diaspora

Kenyan passport still highly ranked amid Covid-19 pandemic

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The Kenyan passport has defied the Covid-19 pandemic to retain position 72 among the most powerful passports in the world, this according to a newly released Henley Passport Index.

The index, periodically measures the world’s most travel-friendly passports, based on the number of destinations their holders can access visa-free or visa-on-arrival.

VISA-FREE ACCESS

According to the latest index, the Japanese passport opens more doors than any other passport in the world.

The Japanese passport, offering visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 191 destinations around the world, topped the rankings, followed by Singapore (190 destinations) while the South Korean passport tied with the German passport in third place with a score of 189.

The Kenyan passport, whose holder can access 71 destinations around the world without a visa or visa-on-arrival, is ranked at seventh in the continent, behind Seychelles (151 destinations), Mauritius (145), South Africa (101), Botswana (82), Namibia (75), Lesotho (74), and Swaziland (72).

The Kenyan passport also commands a relatively high score in comparison to those from other East African countries.

Amanda Smit, the Managing Partner and Head of South, East, and Central Africa at Henley, hailed the Kenyan passport’s resilience in retaining its position.

TEMPORARY BANS

“The much-considered destinations are the ones which have effectively handled the coronavirus outbreak, and especially those which have declared themselves virus-free. International airline travel is still on halt, but it is to be expected that more people will look at various destinations to settle as soon as airspace is open,” she said.

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Research using exclusive historical data from the index has revealed that there is a strongly positive connection between visa freedom and a variety of indicators of economic freedom, government integrity, and personal or political freedom.

The Henley Passport Index is based on data provided by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) and covers 199 passports and 227 travel destinations. It is updated in real time throughout the year, as and when visa policy changes come into effect.

Henley & Partners said the recent ranking did not take temporary bans into account.

The best passports to hold in 2020:

1. Japan (191 destinations)

2. Singapore (190)

3. South Korea, Germany (189)

4. Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg (188)

5. Denmark, Austria (187)

6. Sweden, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Ireland (186)

7. Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium (185)

8. Greece, New Zealand, Malta, Czech Republic (184)

9. Canada, Australia (183)

10. Hungary (181)

The worst passports to hold:

103. North Korea (39 destinations)

104. Libya, Nepal, Palestinian Territory (38)

105. Somalia, Yemen (33)

106. Pakistan (32)

107. Syria (29)

108. Iraq (28)

109. Afghanistan (26)

By Nairobi News

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Diaspora

No Quarantine for Passengers Flying to Kenya, Government says

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Transport CS James Macharia, on Wednesday, July 8, announced that passengers arriving in Kenya from other countries would not be forced to quarantine if they did not exhibit flu symptoms.

“All passengers shall be exempt from quarantine on arrival at their destinations if their body temperature is not above 37.5 degrees celsius and they do not have a persistent cough, difficulty in breathing and other flu-like symptoms.

“This is important because we do not expect a tourist to come from wherever they land here and then they are quarantined for 14 days,” the CS explained.

Speaking during a press briefing at Transcom House in Nairobi, CS Macharia revealed that the new protocols were aimed at encouraging tourism, one of the hardest-hit industries following the pandemic.

Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia speaking at KICC on March 17, 2016.
Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia speaking at KICC on March 17, 2016.
DAILY NATION

In addition, the CS explained that airline crew and passengers would be allowed to the airports and that all crew would be exempted from quarantine after a flight, if their body temperatures were below 37 degrees, and if there was no suspected Covid-19 case in the flight.

However, the crew is expected to be quarantined in case of a suspected case from the flight.

Passengers flying into the country will be allowed to be dropped and picked at the various airports past curfew hours, provided that they are able to present a boarding pass.

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With the resumption of air transport slated for July 15, 2020, as per President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive, CS Macharia revealed that only 5 airlines had so far confirmed that they would be operational.

The five were identified as Kenya Airways, Jambojet, Aim Air, Boskovic Air, and Scenic Safaris.

In case of a suspected case of COVID-19 on a flight, CS Macharia revealed that the passengers within two rows of the passenger with the symptoms would be tested. If their results turned out to be negative, they would be then allowed to leave the airport, however, the reverse would result in the passengers being quarantined in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines.”

Watch CS Macharia’s briefing below:

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Diaspora

Kenyan students in the US to lose visas if their classes move online

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Kenyan students in the United States may soon be forced to return home if their colleges or universities opt for online learning only, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

In a statement on Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that students on non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 visas who attend universities that operate entirely online amid the Covid-19 pandemic may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

FULL ONLINE COURSES

“Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” said ICE.

The agency added that F-1 students who attend schools that provide a mixture of online and in-person classes will be permitted to take some online courses.

According to ICE, the schools must certify to the Student Exchange Visitor Program “that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree.”

F-1 students whose universities will maintain full in-person classes will remain bound by federal laws that allow a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

IMMIGRATION CONSEQUENCES

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“Students who remain in the United States while taking only online courses could face immigration consequences, including the initiation of removal proceedings,” ICE said.

Last year, the number of Kenyans enrolled in US higher-education institutions rose by nearly four per cent, reaching a total of 3,451 students, according to a 2019 study published by a State Department Bureau and Institute of International Education, a New York-based NGO.

Africans overall account for 40,000 of the 1,095,000 international students in the US.

The updated guidance comes as schools in the US consider reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, while imposing restrictions on students’ return that will force some students to stay off-campus and learn remotely for entire semesters at a time.

The ICE announcement comes at a time when the US leads the world in coronavirus caseload. More than 2.9 million Americans have contracted Covid-19 with 130,000 deaths reported.

By Nairobi News

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