Kenya has maintained that it will not compromise the health of its citizens by putting commercial interests first as it negotiates with Tanzania for national carrier Kenya Airways to resume flights to Dar es Salaam.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia on Friday told the Nation that he supports the Ministry of Health’s position that Covid-19 is a matter of life and death and that Kenyans must be protected.
“We are not going to put commercial interests ahead of health matters. Commercial interests are subordinated to health risks,” Mr Macharia said, responding to questions on why Kenya Airways has not been granted permission to fly to Tanzania a week after the government announced it had struck a deal with Dar es Salaam for the resumption of flights.
He said consultations are ongoing and the decisions will be communicated in due course.
Mr Macharia said all the issues had been cleared but being a health-related matter, the concerned ministries will have to agree.
“We met virtually with my brother (Tanzania Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe) and agreed on everything, including travel issues but, being a health-related issue, it requires concurrence with the respective Health ministers on both sides,” Mr Macharia said.
He maintained that the Kenyan government has no problem with its citizens being quarantined for 14 days when they fly to Tanzania.
“We are okay with our people getting quarantined for 14 days when they arrive in Tanzania, but that agreement can only be done by the two respective Health ministers,” he said.
An assessment by the World Health Organisation classified countries into three categories – high, medium and low risk – as far as Covid-19 cases are concerned.
Based on the assessment, the Ministry of Health recommended that travellers from certain countries be exempted from quarantine and, as of yesterday, 150 countries had been put on that list.
“The Ministry of Health has confirmed that travellers coming from the 150 countries with valid Covid-19 certificate will not be quarantined when they get to Nairobi. The list is based on the assessment done by WHO and not diplomatic like or dislike,” Mr Macharia said.
But Tanzanian citizens were not included in the list. This is where the problem started.
After Kenya made an announcement of the countries that were exempted and Tanzania realised it was not included, it barred Kenya Airways from flying to Tanzania.
Hamza Johari, Director-General of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority, said the approvals were cancelled on a “reciprocal basis” and that the ban would be in place “until further notice”.
Tanzania says it has officially ended Covid-19, mostly after prayers. Dar no longer releases figures of infections or tests, although travellers must take tests before departing.
Mr Macharia clarified that no traveller has been banned from coming into the country, but risk assessment measures have to be adhered to by travellers from countries not included on the list.
“We have never restricted travellers from Tanzania, what we have done is to indicate health-related protocols for people arriving from various countries for safety measures,” Mr Macharia said.
On Thursday, KQ chief executive officer, Allan Kilavuka, said they were still awaiting word from the government on when they would resume flights to Tanzania, suggesting that negotiations between the two neighbouring countries had not been concluded.
“We are waiting for government (of Kenya) to confirm,” Mr Kilavuka said.