It’s business as usual at Likoni channel despite Covid-19 fears

Monday March 23 2020

The 'MV Nyayo' ferry at the Likoni crossing channel in Mombasa on February 16, 2017. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


As the government continues to step up measures to fight the spread of coronavirus, the Likoni channel in Mombasa has been ignored.

This comes even as panic grips the region following the confirmation of three Covid-19 cases, with agencies racing to trace their contacts.

At least 45 people in Ukunda have been quarantined after two French tourists in Diani tested positive. The third case is that of Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi, who is believed to have come into contact with many people.

The reluctance by the government to control the number of commuters per ferry has left many worried. On average, 1,500 people use each vessel, particularly during the rush hour.

Even as Health CS Mutahi Kagwe banned gatherings and directed Public Service Vehicles to scale down the number of passengers, it’s business as usual at Likoni. Four vessels that move at least 320,000 people daily continue to operate normally, with no social distancing.

“This is a joke. The government has banned gatherings yet the ferries are operational. Why don’t they sanitise churches and mosques so that people can continue worshipping,” said Francis Omondi, a commuter.
He was reacting to the decision by Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) to disinfect the ferries. Last week, KFS fumigated the ferries and installed 200 taps on either side of the channel for commuters to wash their hands.



“These are some of the measures that we have so far taken, but we know the challenge is with the number of commuters. We are going to work on that moving forward,” said KFS Managing Director Bakari Gowa. After washing hands, commuters converge on holding areas, where they stand close to each other. Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna said they will limit the number of commuters per vessel.

“Those areas (crowded areas) were closed but it does not mean we sjould suspend services at Likoni. We must be ready to accept some level of inconvenience and therefore the number of ferry users must be reduced,” he said.