General Service Unit (GSU) officers have taken over the Likoni ferry crossing channel in Mombasa.
The officers have been deployed on both side of the crossing following orders by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
President Kenyatta on Wednesday evening announced that the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) and the National Police Service (NPS) will take charge at the channel when he announced measures aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Hours after the President’s announcement, a contingent of GSU officers was sent to the channel and strategically positioned on both sides of the Likoni crossing.
Following their deployment, order was witnessed at the ramps on both the mainland and island sides.
The normally chaotic scenes at the channel changed abruptly Thursday following the presence of the dreaded police unit.
At the waiting bay, the Nation witnessed hundreds of commuters standing in straight lines as directed by the officers.
However, the one metre social distancing was not being observed both at the waiting area and in the ferries.
Once released from the waiting area, the commuters could be seen heading into the ferry and standing in small groups.
Pedestrians boarding the vessels were notably fewer than has been the norm as the officers, led by their commander, controlled the number of people boarding.
A number of the commuters wore masks as urged by government officials in Mombasa.
The Nation learnt that a ban on pedestrians boarding the vessels had been reversed.
A letter from the Ministry of Transport had directed Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) managing director Bakari Gowa to allow public service vehicles to ferry people in the vessels.
Mombasa County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo confirmed that the directive had been reversed.
“The directive was reversed. Pedestrians continue to cross,” said Mr Kitiyo in a text message.
The Nation learnt that the directive was halted after a stakeholders’ meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting involved members of the county emergency team on Covid-19 and KFS officials led by Mr Gowa.
A senior official who attended the meeting confided to the Nation that fears of chaos and disruption of business were among major reasons that led to the reversal of the order from the Transport ministry.
The source added that further discussions involving experts will be held later to look into the way forward.
For now, four vessels are ferrying people across the channel which on a normal day handles over 300,000 commuters.