A recent report showcasing how Covid-19 has affected travel with restrictions has shown that Kenya is the recent most banned nation across East Africa.
Kenyan’s are banned from travelling to at least 54 countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The East African nation is cited to be among countries due to be hit by the fourth wave of the highly contagious Covid-19 Delta variant virus. The country’s Health Ministry made the announcement recently urging its citizen to act with caution.
This fourth wave is said to be much more transmissible than the earlier two varieties. It was first identified in India but has now been reported present in western Kenya as well. From there, it is feared that infections may affect all of Kenya over the course of the next two months hence there is no surprise that increasingly more countries are barring Kenyans from entering their borders.
The estimate and list of how many which countries have banned Kenyans from visiting them was prepared by the Henley Passport Index, which regularly monitors the world’s most travel-friendly passports, that is, which countries have the least and in this case the most number of travel restrictions.
Among the countries that Kenyan’s are not allowed to visit include but are not limited to Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Cambodia, UK, Canada, Portugal, Denmark, Bulgaria and Singapore. Others are Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Chile, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Cameroon.
On its part, Kenya has not taken any action against the countries that ban its people from entering. Like most other East African nations, Kenya has not closed its borders and it is not even placing new arrivals in quarantine.
Some of them are Thailand, Ireland, Kuwait, Pakistan Brunei which are among several countries whose citizens are required to be quarantined for up to two weeks (14 days) before being allowed into the country.
Meanwhile, Kenya reported it had 188,513 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3,721 deaths as of June 29. This was a positivity rate of 8.9 percent.
Kenya back on lockdown & curfew
With discovery of the new variant in Western Kenya, the government imposed restrictions on movement in the region in a bid to keep it from spreading and affecting the rest of the country. How well the restrictions work remains to be seen as new figures are revealed by the day.
With about 1.53 million people already vaccinated across the country, of these some 511,520 are said to have received their second doses of the vaccine. Meanwhile, the government of Kenya now expects to receive 13 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses by August.
With the new vaccines, Kenya targets to inoculate more than 10 million of its citizens by the end of December and the entire 26 million adult population by the end of 2022. The Henley Passport Index report decries continued restriction of international travel despite ongoing vaccination initiatives.
However, the report is clear that while other countries are carrying out vaccination, most developing nations are progressing slowly owing to a lack of resources and poor supplies.
Another highlight of the report is the new drop in the number of countries that Kenyans can visit without a visa.
This number has now dropped from 79 in December to 59. Also, back at home, the Kenyan passport no longer commands free visa movement even in countries that Kenyans could previously visit with no passports. Now that number has gone from a high of nine to a low of 11. This is the same with Tanzania and Ghana.
In Africa, the Passport Index report shows Kenya ranked behind Seychelles, South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia and Swaziland. However, Kenyans can still visit 29 countries without a visa and can enter another 30 countries without a visa but obtain legal paperwork upon entry.
E-Passports, no match for Covid-19 restrictions
Kenya issued chip-embedded passports to allow for the digitization of biometrics and other personal data on a passport. The e-passports are said to help address unchecked forgery and impersonations.
Notably, East Africa is rated among the top regional blocs within which its people have free movement in and out of the neighbouring country’s borders for leisure or business. The e-passport is seen as a tool that further pushes this initiative even further.
With free movement across borders then it is expected that there will be increased trade, security and overall greater continental integration. In fact, even the African Union Commission has called on other African countries to act swiftly and like Kenya, quickly start the use of e-passports.
Kenya is also one of the few countries in the East African bloc that allows any citizen of the neighbouring countries to enter without a passport. To enter Kenya from the neighbouring countries all one needs is their national ID. Once in the country, the patron can choose to work, do business and even own property on an equal basis as any Kenyan.
Countries given this privilege include Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. This gesture of goodwill is not reciprocated across all of East Africa. For example in Tanzania, land is property of the government and even Tanzanians cannot own land but only rent it over extensive periods.
There still remain restrictions on which jobs Kenyans and other foreigners can take in Tanzania a rule set in a bid to protect the locals from unemployment. It is such differences in policies that experts say, hamper the quick and complete integration of the EAC.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that Tanzania too has instituted the use of e-passports making it easier to match up the details of a person crossing the border. As such, when the two e-passport systems are integrated then, people crossing the border from Kenya into Tanzania will now find it much easier to go through the custom processes, another step towards the much-coveted regional integration.