It is an Easter season in yet another Covid-19 lockdown.
For the second year in a row, Kenyans will mark the Christian event without much fanfare, travelling and merry-making.
Instead, they will find innovative ways to participate in religious rites or celebrate with deflated pockets.
Unlike last year, the government has not provided tax relief that would have given businesses and workers the financial boost to celebrate.
With Kenya experiencing a third wave of the pandemic, travel into and out of the five “disease-infested counties” is banned.
Also prohibited are congregations, including at churches and recreational centres.
Like 2020, churches in Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado, Nakuru and Nairobi will have to find other ways to preach to their followers.
Residents of the five counties will either celebrate Easter at home or go for outdoor events in which they must maintain social distance. They are not allowed to leave the counties.
That means the annual migration from Nairobi to the Coast and other rural areas will be missing.
What will make Easter even more unusual is the fact that most Kenyans are financially down, courtesy of a receding economy.
Some of the worst affected are workers in the entertainment and hospitality sectors. Like last year, they will mark Easter without jobs.
Bars and eateries will be allowed to operate during Easter in the remaining 42 counties, but with reduced working hours.
Yesterday, the Central Bank of Kenya made matters worse for Kenyans hoping for some form of reprieve by announcing the resumption of charges for mobile money transactions that are above Sh100.
“A recurring concern has been that the viability of these services may be adversely affected in the current pricing regime, given the inability to cover extensive costs,” the CBK said.
“This is a significant risk for saccos and their extensive membership due to lack of other alternatives to connect to the mobile money ecosystem. The resumption of charges will provide space to increase the connection options.”
Several banks jumped immediately on the opportunity by reintroducing mobile money transaction charges.
“The bank has received regulatory approval from CBK on the subsidised charges relating to Mco-op transfers to other wallets with full consideration of the needed relief to customers under Covid-19,” Cooperative Bank said.
“The rates have been heavily subsidised to ensure there is enhanced value to our customers and the key saccos that have implemented the digital banking platform countrywide.”
The withdrawal of these charges was among several measures announced by the government at the start of the pandemic in March last year.
Most of the measures have since been withdrawn, leaving Kenyans fighting to survive on their own with the little money they have amidst job losses and business closures.
But even for those who have money, would wish to hold parties or engage in mischief, the government says it has tightened security for purposes of making sure everyone adheres to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai yesterday said 3,000 more officers from Kenya Prisons Service would be called to enforce the Covid-19 guidelines and protocols.
He said Kenyans in the zoned counties should not attempt to leave, unless they are essential service providers.
“Accordingly, we have erected 33 roadblocks on major roads leading into and out of the zoned areas,” Mr Mutyambai said.
“These roadblocks will be manned day and night to ensure compliance of non-movement into and out of the zoned areas.”
“Curfew hours as prescribed between 8pm and 6am in the zoned areas shall remain in force until further notice.”
For the remaining 42 counties, the curfew hours still begin at 10pm and end at 4am.
Responding Kenyans’ concerns of celebrating Easter while on lockdown and people losing their livelihoods, President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday said his administration’s main objective is to save lives.
“At the end of the day, we have not said that people cannot pray. They can pray at home but we want them to be safe,” Mr Kenyatta said.
“We cannot pretend that this disease is not here. Let us work together. The sooner every person begins to do what is necessary, the sooner we go back to getting things to normal.”