NAIROBI, 8 April 2021 – The Kenyan government is ringing alarm bells to decry what Nairobi describes as potential coronavirus “vaccine apartheid”.
The accusation comes after the government of the United Kingdom (UK) announced a travel ban for all travelers originating from or transiting through Kenya.
Kenya joined 17 other African countries who are already on the “Red List” of 39 countries worldwide, listed as such because they are considered high-risk regions, and banned from traveling to the UK.
The other 17 African countries are Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
Effective next April 9, “visitors who have been in or transited through Kenya in the previous ten days will be refused entry” a statement on the website of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office notes of the ban.
Kenya’s foreign ministry has hit back, announcing its own ban, effective next April 9, and applying to all travelers originating from or transiting through the UK.
Nairobi has directed that all travelers coming into Kenya from the UK will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine at a government-designated facility, where they will need to take two PCR tests, at their own expense.
Under the UK ban, British, Irish, and third-world country nationals with residence rights arriving from Kenya and other “Red List” countries will be required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for ten days.
Those who test negative after ten days (in the UK) and after 14 days (in Kenya) will be allowed to leave the specified quarantined centers.
The official statement by Nairobi aligns with the outrage expressed by Kenyans on social media ever since the travel ban was announced.
Some of the most vociferous critics on Kenyan social media platforms are calling the UK ban “medical racism”.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has described the ban as “discriminatory policy”.
“First came Vaccine Nationalism. Now, we have Vaccine Apartheid,” tweeted Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Kimani.
“Kenya continues to see, with deep regret, that vaccine producing countries around the world have begun practicing a form of vaccine nationalism, possessiveness, and discrimination, coupled with a vaccine hoarding attitude that can only be described as a form of ‘vaccine apartheid’,” Kenya’s Foreign Ministry said in a long press statement issued last weekend.
“This vaccine apartheid, coupled with the reckless calls for vaccine passports while not making the vaccines available to all nations, widens existing inequalities and makes it near impossible for the world to win the war against the pandemic,” the statement argued.
All travelers, except UK nationals and UK permanent residents, arriving from Kenya will be turned away at the airport.
The UK has said a rising number of positive cases among travelers arriving from Kenya informed the travel ban, not any other considerations.
Kenyan authorities have accused the UK of picking a bone with Kenya.
“It’s not like we have an out-of-control Covid situation in Kenya — we do not. It’s not like we are not exercising great prudence and it’s not like we are not managing the situation diligently here,” Kenya’s principal secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Macharia Kamau, told CNN in a phone call interview on Tuesday.
Last Friday, the Nairobi-based Nation media group reported that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was planning to explain the travel ban to Kenyan diplomats.
The paper explained that London did not intend to rescind the decision, which it describes as absolutely needed in order to “protect public health”.
As of Thursday, an estimated 31 million citizens of the UK had received at least a first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine compared to a mere 325,592 shots administered to Kenyans.
According to Kenyan immigration, at least 500 people travel to the UK every week from Kenya, making it one of the most stable flight routes out of Nairobi.