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Kenyans barred from 40 nations despite vaccinations drive

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi. Kenyan passport holders cannot access 40 countries despite a massive vaccination campaign put up by Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

What you need to know:

  • Kenya whose economy grew by 9.9 percent in the third quarter has been counting on easing of containment measures to support its growth and lift the economy from the Covid-19 slowdown.

Kenyan passport holders cannot access 40 countries, a marginal drop from the 43 in October last year and 54 in July despite a massive vaccination campaign put up by Nairobi.

This has seen Kenyans remain locked out of dozens of destinations at a time nations are easing travel restrictions following increased Covid-19 vaccinations.

The Henley Passport Index, which regularly monitors the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, made the revelations in its final report of 2021, showing how countries are still keen to protect their citizens from new variants of coronavirus.

“This year, Passport Index data paints a picture of a world in recovery, bolstered by growing access to vaccines and an inherent desire to move, meet and connect across the globe,” said the report.

Taiwan, Israel, Sweden, Vatican City, South Korea, Singapore, Poland, and Cambodia top the list of countries that have banned or placed restrictions on holders of Kenyan passports.

Others are Bangladesh, Chile, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Cameroon, which Henley & Partners lists as the only African country to place restrictions on Kenya.

The countries that have so far removed Kenya passport holders from the list of Covid-19 ban include Ireland, Bulgaria, Canada, Hong Kong, Denmark and the UK. This has helped open up the Kenyan skies and increased activity in the aviation sector.

Kenya is a net importer and travel is a major requirement for its business executives who have to move to do due diligence and source raw materials and finished products for the East African market.

The report comes at a time Kenya has recorded a sharp increase in cases of Covid-19 infections in recent months, while the number of admissions in health facilities is also increasing.

The positivity rate — the proportion of tests coming back positive — climbed sharply by a double-digit from last month, raising concerns among health officials.

The rate has increased from a low of 0.5 percent in October to 24.4 percent as of Sunday as the government stepped up testing and vaccination.

By close of business yesterday, Kenya had vaccinated 10.1 million doses of the vaccine, with, 4.2 million people have been fully vaccinated up from 746,267 on August 14 while the number of those who have received the first jab has jumped to 5.8 million from two million over the same period.

The country has so far vaccinated 14.4 percent of its adult population, well ahead of its targets. To boost vaccinations, the Health ministry had ordered malls and other public establishments to lock out the unvaccinated.

As cases continue to soar with the emergence of the new Omicron variant, about 130 countries, including Kenya, have started implementing booster programmes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). So far, 13.218 million booster doses have been administered.

The Kenyan passport also lost its strength in Africa, dropping from the 12th position in October to 32nd in the review.

The Passport Index shows Kenya ranked behind Seychelles, Somalia South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia, Tanzania and Swaziland, among other African states.

A Kenyan can visit 30 countries without a visa and obtain the entry document on arrival in 33 countries while the visa is required in 133 countries.

Kenya rolled out new chip-embedded passports for its citizens in a move that targets rampant forgery and impersonation of holders. The new features are meant to make it impossible to forge or duplicate a Kenyan passport.

Roll-out of the e-passports with a 10-year validity period marked the beginning of the end of the ‘analogue’ passports that had been in use since Independence and has since joined 60 other countries that use e-passports.

Kenya whose economy grew by 9.9 percent in the third quarter has been counting on easing of containment measures to support its growth and lift the economy from the Covid-19 slowdown.

The restrictions are set to stop the party for the recovery of the hospitality industry, which posted the fastest growth in the third quarter growing by 24.8 percent compared to 63.4 percent contraction in the third quarter of 2020.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics attributes the growth to the easing of Covid-19 containment measures, which lifted performance in the education, accommodation and food serving activities, transportation and storage, manufacturing and insurance activities that had been battered by the lockdowns.