Government releases transport protocols to guide gradual reopening of the sector

Transport CS James Macharia
Transport CS James Macharia

Th government has released new guidelines for the transport sector as the country gradually reopens and seeks to evade the effects of Covid-19, with the aviation industry, railway travel and road ravel key highlights. Transport CS James Macharia said the government will assess if the situation improves, with the new guidelines set to shift the weight of responsibility to the transport sector stakeholders, “We have evaluated our plans to reopen the transport sector in full and are confident they will assist in the containment of the virus, the steps we are taking are by necessity gradual, and incremental, will be assessed with action taken if there is rise in infections.”

On railway travel, he said the SGR Madaraka Express operations will resume on Monday 13th July, with the first train set to depart Nairobi at 8:00 am heading to Mombasa, arriving at 12:45 pm and departing Mombasa at 1:25 pm and arriving in Nairobi at 6:40 pm, with passengers given time to go to their homes before the curfew sets in at 9:00 pm. Kenya Railways is set to deploy 10 coaches, with a maximum one way capacity of 600 passengers, representing 50% of the total capacity, all this to observe social distancing. CS Macharia added that an additional coach, which will always be empty, will be set aside to accommodate any suspected Coronavirus patient.

The Nairobi commuter rail service will also be operational, linking the Nairobi SGR terminus at Syokimau to the Nairobi CBD, and will be operational from 6:35 am to 6:50 pm. With the aviation sector set to be opened on 15th July starting with the domestic market, all passengers shall be exempt from quarantine on arrival at their destinations, with international flights also considered, if their body temperature is not above 35 degrees, they have no persistent cough, difficulty in breathing and other flu like symptoms.

When there is a suspected case on the flight or if the symptoms are detected, then the passengers within two rows of the sick passenger shall be quarantined and taken for testing, and will be allowed to leave if they test negative but if they test positive they shall be quarantined in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines. Further, all airport terminal access shall be restricted to workers and travelers only with no escorts allowed.

Air operators are set to reduce on board services to a bare minimum and introduce boarding procedures to eliminate crowding at the aisles. He added that all crew shall be exempt from quarantine after operating any flight if body temperature is not above 35 degrees and if they don’t have Covid-19 symptoms and there was no suspected case on the flight. If there was a suspected or positive case, then the crew shall be quarantined.

CS Macharia pointed out that all transport operators must take ownership in terms of measures, they must cascade that conduct and change of behavior to their clients. On vehicles that ply the routes through the once restricted areas like Nairobi to other areas, the government has insisted that operators must have certificates from the Ministry of Health showing compliance to guidelines outlined by the Health Ministry, given that many people are looking for testing centres instead of seeking to fulfill compliance to the issued directives. The same applies to all PSV operators.

The Ministry of Health, Interior and Transport will work together to ensure all PSVs keep the guidelines, and regular checks will be in place at the road blocks for long distance PSVs. The protocols cover provision of timely Covid-19 information to passengers, physical distancing, the use of face masks, routine sanitation, rapid health screening and hand washing.