Kenya Should Rethink Its Quarantine Policy on California Travelers
Currently, Kenya has a list of countries that are exempt from a 14-day quarantine when entering its borders. This exemption list includes the United States, but NOT California. Any quarantine policy that impacts California should take into account the nuances by region and county. Why? Because the US is 2nd in the world for international tourism expenditure ($144B) and California takes 1st place for the most well-traveled state. And in communities, like those of the Maasai in Kenya, that livelihood means food shortages, starvation and deaths.
Travel policies that are too strict will deter travelers from California altogether, while not taking into account how much more widely Covid 19 has spread in Central and Southern California by counties.
Looking at the chart below, Southern California, represented by the yellow bars, has shown not only the highest number of Covid 19 cases, but the highest proportion of cases per capita (represented by the high peaks in the red line graph).
Los Angeles has 2,343 cases versus San Francisco 956 cases per 100K residents. As of Aug 19, Los Angeles reported 224,031 known cases, compared to 8,427 in San Francisco.
Though Los Angeles County is 10x the population of San Francisco, its known Covid cases are closer to 26x that of San Francisco County.
San Francisco and Los Angeles are 381 miles (614 km) apart, that's more than 2x the distance between Nairobi and the Maasai Mara.
Why are travelers from Northern California grouped together with their Southern counterparts when it comes to quarantine policies? Most likely because it's simpler to list an entire state than to verify city or county residency.
What most people don't realize is that the state of California is like its own country, in area, population and in GDP. In fact, California is slightly bigger in area than Japan and is the world's fifth largest economy. It has a population that is close to 40 million and its coastline is 840 miles (1351 km) long. The culture, industry and lifestyle of Northern, Central and Southern California vary widely. Northern California hosts Silicon Valley and San Francisco, while Central California is heavily agriculture, and Southern California embodies Hollywood, Disneyland and San Diego. These 3 regions are not only vastly different in economy and culture, but the pandemic has hit them differently as well.
Unfortunately, when your city, state or country depends on travel and tourism, carving out these nuances can mean the life and death to the international communities that rely heavily on tourism dollars.
20% of Kenya's GDP depends directly on tourism and another 40% depends indirectly on tourism.
A major food shortage is impacting large proportions of Kenyan communities that rely heavily on tourism. Massive layoffs around the country due to Covid 19 and the decline in tourism has decimated communities like the Maasai. Maasais are queuing for food aid in Nashulai Maasai Conservancy in Narok County.
Photo & Maasai Quote Credits: https://longreads.trust.org/item/pandemic-impact-livelihoods-Kenya-Maasai-tourism
"Now there are no tourists, there is no dollar and there is no food. If we didn't get these weekly handouts, we would not be able to eat." - Letolo, at the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, a few kilometres from the Maasai Mara's Sekenani gate.
Kenya should rethink its Covid quarantine policy for California and have specific policies based on regions and counties of California.
In San Francisco County, all public schools have been opened to online learning and strict mask policies have been enforced early and adhered to widely across the area. San Diego is the one southern county that has had a similar number of Covid cases per 100K residents as of August 18, 2020.
How should Kenyan rethink its Covid Policy for travelers from California?
+ Californians should bring evidence of Covid-free tests in the past 7 days, but also verify their residency and where they have traveled to in the past two weeks - quarantine restrictions should be based on county residence and travel history in the past 2 weeks
+ Counties with over 1500 known cases per 100K residents need to self-quarantine for 14 days (https://usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/state/california)
+ San Francisco Airport and Los Angeles Airport facilitate an enormous amount of traffic, consider flight paths and airport of origin in reviewing each traveler's case
+ Since there are no direct flights from the US to Kenya, examine the travel pathways where travelers can extend their layovers before entering Kenya to reduce their overall quarantine time-frame (e.g. from date of departure)
The safari tourism industry needs as much help as it can get from Covid-free travelers around the world. Let's facilitate that without compromising the safety and well-being of the local communities that depend heavily on that industry to survive.