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Governor urges companies to protect workers from Covid-19

The  Machakos Governor, Dr. Alfred Mutua has called on all companies in the county to ensure that their workers are not infected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Mutua  speaking on Tuesday after visiting the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA) in  Athi River, Mavoko sub-county urged companies to protect their workers by reducing the number of workers per shift and by providing them with protective gears.

“My cabinet sub-committee tasked with dealing with COVID-19, together with National Security and administration officials have visited the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA) in Athi River to evaluate their management of the COVID-19 threat,” he said.

“We laud all factories that continue to protect their workers from COVID-19 infection through the reduction of workers per shift and provision of protective gear,” he added.

Dr. Mutua appealed to factories in the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) to ensure that they display sanitizers in accessible areas for the workers during shifts and advocate for handwashing and providing soap and water on site.

He also called for decontamination of the factories on regular intervals and encouraged all companies to have their employees working on a 4-hour shift, practice social distancing and ensure that there is proper ventilation in the factories.

However, the governor vowed that the County Disease Surveillance team will continue to monitor compliance of the above measures to ensure that the residents remain safe as they continue to fend for their families.

“My government in collaboration with EPZA management will set up a health facility to serve the all those working at the EPZA,” said Dr. Mutua.

“I urge you all to stay safe, take necessary precautions, avoid unnecessary movement and together we will fight and beat this pandemic,” he added.

This came barely a day after a section of casual laborers working at the zones expressed concerns of their congested working conditions, which they said posed a great risk of exposing them to COVID-19.

According to a worker who requested anonymity, their employers had already provided them with protective face masks but that was not protective enough given that they work in groups and in close contact and proximity with their fellow employees.

On  Monday, Dr. Mutua ordered that no Tuk tuk, Maruti or motorcycle taxis commonly known as boda boda will operate in Machakos County effective on Wednesday.

The governor said the move which also incorporates a raft of several other stringent measures was taken in order to protect the locals from the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus.

He stressed that the move will promote social distancing which has been hailed as one way of reducing the possibility of one contracting or spreading the virus.

The  Export Processing Zones were established in Kenya in 1990 aimed at attracting and facilitating export-oriented investments.

The Kenya’s EPZ is managed by EPZA and provides an attractive and enabling environment as well as a range of fiscal and procedural incentives for such investments.

Meanwhile, the order by government for a total closure of bars and entertainment joints has left bar operators and bar workers in Migori County in total financial mess.

The financial pressure being exerted by the state’s ‘stay home’ order meant to contain the spread of the dreaded coronavirus is becoming unbearable to the staff in bars and entertainment joints who solely depend on the premises for their income, according to one Beatrice Ondigo, a waitress at a bar in the town.

“At the moment I am just glued in my house waiting for manna from heaven to keep me alive after losing my only source of income,” the mother of two told KNA crew by phone

Ondigo  who has been working as a waitress at a popular bar in Migori says she has now been reduced to begging to feed her 10-year-old daughter and her three-year-old son in a rented two roomed house.

“The end month is fast approaching and I do not know how I will deal with an always stubborn landlord,” she rued before spewing a bitter cast against the dreaded Covid-19 virus which she said has caused all her problems.

Ms. Ondigo’s tale is just one among hundreds of others held by residents now forced into self-quarantine behind closed doors and gates dotting the width and breath of Migori County following the social distance rule that the state is enforcing as a measure to check on the spread of disease.

The victims comes from the various sectors of the County’s economy molders including the Jua-Kali artisans, the bar workers, the drivers, the fisher folk, gold miners and the rest, many who are now idling at home.

The order is that people should work from home except those engaged in the very essential sectors such as health, security, financial and water.

The County Commissioner (CC), Joseph Rotich says the order must be heeded to and streets in towns and market places cleared of human beings with a view to combating the highly contagious virus.

However, the big question is how the government is going to empower its population that ordinarily survives on hand-to-mouth income.

“I am confused. Can’t comprehend how I and my colleagues in the construction sector are going to conduct our physical mixing and ferrying of building materials to the site while sitting at home to enable us earn our daily income,” paused Mr. Joel Otieno, a casual laborer at a construction site in Migori town.

A bar-waiter at a local pub Veronica Moseti had this valid question to our crew, “What method would I employ to serve a customer sitting at home from the comfort of my house? My employer has not sacked me. It is this order closing my place of work that is rendering me redundant and a beggar,” she added.

A fisherman, Peter Omenda said he was yet to be educated on a system that will help him cast his net wide in Lake Victoria and catch fish while sitting back at home.

My main problem is how I will maintain my flow of daily income from fishing activities to enable me fend for my family as has been happening before this order.

But even as the people continue to criticize the government for its action to lock the population at home, the most important thing is that the life of the people must be protected at all costs, according to County Executive Committee member in charge of Health, Mrs. Iscah Oluoch

By  Rachael Kilonzo/ George Agimba 

 

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