In a normal year, at around this time, country bus offices would be full of travelers flocking the booking offices in a bid to secure early bus tickets. All this so as to avoid the last minute rush that has always seen all buses full days before Christmas.
However, under this year’s circumstances, which have ironically been called the new normal, things have been a whole lot different.After the disease’s outbreak in the country in March, a number of restrictions were enforced in the country, some which affected the transport industry directly, and others, indirectly.
The social distancing stipulation, for instance, meant that buses couldn’t carry at full capacity, with some companies carrying out renovations to fit within the new seating arrangement. The inter-county lockdown, though not directly connected to the transport industry, was yet another rule that greatly hit this industry. Long distance travels were effectively banned, as entry into Nairobi, and out of it was outlawed. Then there was the curfew, which restricted working hours to only 12 of hours each day.
While some of these regulations, such as the inter-county lockdown, have been removed, some are still in place, only that they’ve been relaxed.It is for this reason that the transport industry has seen sharp decreases in the number of early bookings. Due to job losses, most people who would have otherwise preferred to travel during this coming season are out of work and already traveled much earlier. There’s also the fear that with the reemergence of daily infections witnessed recently, this second wave might peak in the midst of the festive season, and necessitate the re-imposition of the inter-county lockdown, which might see many of them stuck either upcountry, or even worse, in expensive vacation towns such as Lamu and Mombasa.
Constance Wesonga, an operator with one of the major bus companies plying the Nairobi-Western Kenya route opines, however, that some of the reasons causing slow business, have nothing to do with government imposed regulations, but rather, self-imposed ones. ”Most people are fearful of traveling upcountry for the holidays, apprehensive that they might spread the disease to their elderly relatives in the villages, and it’s known that the virus is quite lethal when it comes to such vulnerable groups.”