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250k jobs hang in the balance after govt orders all bars, clubs shut down

More than 250,000 people are living in uncertainty over their jobs after the government on Sunday ordered all bars and other entertainment joints to be closed indefinitely over the Covid-19 fears.

In a briefing, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe urged Kenyans to observe the effectiveness of hygiene and maintaining the social distance of one metre in curbing the spread of the deadly virus.

“Effective midnight tonight (Sunday), all bars to remain closed until further notice, restaurants to remain open but operate on take away basis,” said Kagwe.

Last week, the Health CS directed that all bars be closed by 7:30pm, but he changed tune on Sunday, saying they now be completely shut to enable the country tackle the coronavirus better.

According to the Alcoholic Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) chairman Gordon Mutugi, the industry supports the ban on public gatherings to limit the fast spread of the Covid-19.

“Bars employ over 250,000 people who in most cases earn a daily wage. Closing them will render these people jobless, jeopardise their support for over 2 million livelihoods and directly lead to social unrest. Ultimately this could potentially result in social anarchy including looting, muggings, violent robberies, as has already been witnessed in other parts of the world,” Mutugi warned.

According to ABAK, most bars are in the category of small and medium enterprises and are mostly owned and operated by women, and employ thousands of youth.

“Closing them indiscriminately would also push drinkers in the direction of illicit alcohol, which would compound the problem,” he warned.

He said the association is running a robust campaign to promote hygiene through donating over 100,000 litres of hand sanitisers to 40,000 bars, 7,000 direct staff and 2.4 million vulnerable urban population living in slums.

He added that ABAK is also helping the state in creating public awareness on the dangers of the coronavirus in more than 40,000 bars and appropriate measures needed to minimise its spread.

Mutugi further encouraged consumers to buy alcoholic products to consume at home responsibly and practise social distancing as some of the steps to stem explosion of the viral infections.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho on Sunday ordered administration officers to enforce the rules strictly saying the government has established a command centre to ensure compliance.