Fellow Kenyans and Conference Participants,
Let me once again say how delighted am today as we conference together, bringing teams from across the country and across the different sectors, teams that have shaped our national response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
In your different capacities, either as leaders, clergy, technocrats, doctors, civil society different experts; private sector you have all helped the Country navigate through the turns and twists of the Corona crisis for the last six months, and brought us within sight of safe harbour.
The panel discussions held this afternoon have highlighted both the Hits and the Misses in our national endeavor to flatten the infection curve. Overall, we have demonstrated resilience in the face of tremendous challenge.
I join all speakers and participants today in celebrating our gallant health workers and all our essential services providers, for keeping the Kenyan flame burning bright. Today, we honour and salute them all, and recognise their representatives who are in our midst at this Conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Even as we mourn for our compatriots whom we have lost to this disease, we are eternally grateful to also God for our survivors and the recoveries. Each death is undoubtedly a tragedy, but every recovery is also a story of heroic triumph.
I am confident that as a Nation, we will stay the course for the remainder of this journey and reach our desired end. For your efforts, I want to once again thank you, collectively as well as individually, on behalf of the People and the Government of the Republic of Kenya, and on my own behalf.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the last six months, the country has been in a ‘Season of Paradox’. Since March this year, when we recorded the first COVID-19 case, it became necessary to shut down the economy in order to save it.
We had to avoid our loved ones, especially the elderly, because we care for their health just as much as we cherish their wisdom.
And, it became necessary to withdraw our children from schools in order to secure their future.
All this, was a paradox – a conflict between the ‘new normal’; and what we think the ‘normal’ should be.
Today, however, we face an even greater paradox. As we flatten the Corona Curve, it appears like victory, is on sight. Yes, indeed the COVID positivity rate has fallen from 13% in June, 7% in August and now stands at 4.4%. With these figures, we can all be tempted to celebrate, more so because we are now below the 5% positivity rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for re-opening.
Yet these achievements are a paradox in themselves. I say so because “…the greatest danger is always at that moment of victory”.
In fact, experience has taught us that we are most vulnerable and fragile at the moment where we think we have won.
I am not saying this to belittle the achievements that we have made but just indeed as he told us only asking us to incline on the side of caution. If we have won one battle against COVID-19, we have not yet won the war. The possibility of a second wave of this pandemic is, real as we have seen in other countries.
As an affirmation that the enemy is still within our borders we continue to record new infections every day even as we speak. In that regard, to forestall what is happening elsewhere, we must continue adhering to the protocols issued by the Ministry of Health.
But we also seeing successes and I am particularly delighted by the advances that we have made in the health sector. When we were hit by this pandemic in March this year, we only had 8 infectious diseases Isolation beds country-wide.
Seven days exactly after the first COVID case was reported, we were able to increase this bed capacity to 60.
Currently, and working in partnership with County Governments, we have over 300 ICU beds and 7,411 isolation beds nationally. And this done in six months, these achievements are, indeed, phenomenal and through you Governor Oparanya, Chairman of Council of Governors, I take this opportunity to thank you for the partnership that you and your Governors have shown during this very difficult period of time.
In fact, in this period of six months, we have actually installed more medical equipment that has ever happened since our country’s independence. As an affirmation of our expanding capacity and as we continue to use this moment to Re-imagine Kenya’s Healthcare, earlier this month, I presided over the official opening of our fifth National Referral Hospital – K.U. Teaching Referral and Research Hospital.
The new facility is part of our national response for specialized treatment of chronic diseases, notably: cancer and renal diseases – the twin diseases that have caused and wreaked havoc to many families across the nation.
In that regard, once the K.U - Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre (IMIC), is completed, by March of next year, there will no longer be need for any Kenyan to travel abroad in search of specialized Cancer Treatment, as our enhanced capacity will be able to handle any medical conditions that people now are currently traveling abroad for.
Indeed, the Referral facilities, coupled with the expanded county infrastructure will enhance our national possibilities and anchor our plans to position our nation as a top medical hub for our region, for the continent and indeed develop medical tourism as a new area of generating income and jobs for our people. This will also help us with our national rollout for the Universal Health Care under the Big Four Agenda.
Our expanded health infrastructure, as I have just mentioned, is indeed impressive. However, it is important to question ourselves and ask ourselves is: Does it make our position unassailable if a second wave were to hit us? Is it sufficient a buffer to keep a second wave at bay? The ANSWER to this question is a resounding NO. The expanded infrastructure is NECESSARY, but still not SUFFICIENT. Without citizen action, the impressive infrastructure cannot forestall the aggression of a second wave as I said as we have seen in other countries.
To buffer the country, therefore, the citizens must as they have been, position themselves as the First Line of Defence. The reason why we have managed to flatten the curve is because Kenyans have exercised an impressive civic responsibility and duty. And if danger is most present in moments of victory, this achievement is in danger if we do not watch out.
That is why I urge all Kenyans to double their efforts in observing the COVID protocols. We have got this far because we, the citizens, were the First Line of Defense against the pandemic.
And as we get into the next phase of the war against this pandemic, we must heed the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi who said and I quote: ’... start by doing what is necessary, then it will lead you to what is possible and before you know it, you will find yourself doing the impossible”.
If we do what is necessary during the next phase of the war against the pandemic, it will lead us to do what is possible. Then cumulatively, our necessary actions (like wearing masks) coupled with our possible deeds, will lead us to the impossible outcome of containing this pandemic.
Indeed, as a people we must always remember that ‘…impossible is nothing’ if we each and every one of us applies themselves.
So therefore in the spirit of co-creating the ‘new normal’ between the government and its people; and on the advice of the National Security Council and in line with the recommendations of the National Emergency Committee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, I direct and announce as follows:-
i. One, THAT the Nationwide Curfew in force throughout the territory of the Republic of Kenya is extended for a further sixty (60) days;
ii. Two, THAT the commencement time for the Nationwide Curfew is varied from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Therefore, effective tomorrow, Tuesday the 29th September, 2020 the national wide dusk-to-dawn Curfew will run from 11:00 O’clock at night to 4:00 O’clock in the morning.
iii. Three, THAT the prohibition against the operation of bars and the prohibition against the sale of alcoholic drinks and beverages by ordinary restaurants and eateries shall stand vacated with effect from 29th September, 2020;
iv. Four, THAT the closing time for all bars and restaurants and eateries shall be 10pm every day with effect from 29th September, 2020 and their operations shall be with strict adherence to the applicable guidelines and protocols issued by the Ministry of Health;
v. Five, THAT in line with the recommendations of the Inter-Faith Council, the permitted maximum size of religious gatherings is increased to one third (1/3) of its normal sitting capacity; but with strict adherence to all applicable guidelines and protocols issued by the Ministry of Health.
vi. Six, THAT the permitted maximum number of persons attending funerals and weddings is reviewed upwards from one hundred (100) to two hundred (200); but with strict adherence to all applicable guidelines and protocols issued by the Ministry of Health
As we progressively de-escalate the containment measures and resume a sense of normalcy on education, our paramount consideration both as a Government but also as parents is the safety and well-being of our children.
The lives of our children and their health is not a matter for debate. Learning institutions therefore should only be reopened when we have and can sufficiently guarantee the safety of all our children. And here I really would plead with Kenyans let us not focus ourselves on when schools will reopen but how shall these schools open in a manner that protects our children and protects their lives and their healthy. Let us think first about their health and wellbeing and once we have established how, then together we will agree when.
So therefore, the resumption of in-person learning must be predicated on strict adherence to the health protocols and guidelines as issued by the Ministry of Health.
Therefore, I call upon the Cabinet Secretary for Education, once we have agreed on the how, he will thereafter immediately issue a Calendar for the resumption of the 2020 Academic year if it is to be or if it is going to be 2021.
As I give these directives, I underscore the need to continue adhering to the health guidelines and protocols; to avoid losing the gains we have made thus far. And to also say again, that I will not hesitate to escalate containment measures in the event that any of these indicators that we know start to rise again.
The containment measures put in place in March 2020 to stem the spread of Covid-19; have had positive returns in terms of our safety and national security. This is something most people have not actually noted. In the six months since we started the containment measures, crime has exhibited a 21% average decline and traffic accidents have reduced by an average of 10%.
So with that, I want to conclude with some thoughts for all of us. As I said earlier, especially with regard to our economy, we are living in a ‘Season of Paradox’. An age where our new reality is a conflict with what we ‘feel reality should be’. Indeed, that is not only true of our social lives but also true of our economy.
Against all odds, as we have seen and heard today, some of our entrepreneurs have re-imagined the subsisting pandemic and created a new business reality that disorganizes the existing order at play.
This is a new business model driven by innovators and makers of things; people who did not see danger in the COVID crisis, but actually saw opportunity. Businesses that experienced shock from COVID, but bounced back better.
But the question that this development begs is the following: If positive disruptions and innovations have mushroomed during COVID-19, how do we together support them as part of our resilience-building strategy?
How do we boost a small ‘samosa delivery’ company known as “Wau Eats” whose recipe is 100 years old, for instance? And how do we encourage the Association of Women in Agriculture Kenya (AWAK) with their innovative work especially amongst vulnerable settlement women across the country? How do we assist this kind of people.
During the first phase of this pandemic, we rolled out a series of economic stimulus packages. Today, and in support of our small businesses and innovators, I also direct as follows:
i. One, that the National Treasury considers retaining VAT at 14% until 1st July 2021.
ii.Two, that the National Treasury considers retaining the Income Tax Rate (Pay-As-You-Earn) at 25 percent until 1st January 2021.
iii. Three, that the National Treasury considers retaining the Resident Income Tax (Corporation Tax) at 25% until 1st January 2021.
iv. Four, that to continue cushioning low income earners the National Treasury maintains the 100 percent tax relief for persons earning gross monthly income of up to Ksh. 24,000 beyond the Sunset date of 31st December, 2020.
v. Five, that to continue cushioning our Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises the National Treasury considers maintaining the reduction of the current turnover tax rate from 3 percent to 1 percent for all Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).
vi. Six, to enhance access to credit for our micro, small and medium enterprises, the National Treasury is directed to expedite the ongoing roll-out of the credit guarantee scheme in partnership with participating banks as well as our development partners. The credit guarantee scheme as approved by Cabinet is a risk-sharing partnership between the Government and banks, which will afford our enterprises across the country access to credit and increase the amount that we can lend to this sector by an additional 100 billion shillings.
When COVID pandemic hit us in March this year, we did not know the extent of the crisis. In-between the crisis, I told you that we were in what I was calling the ‘Fog of War’. The theatres of war were invisible and indeed foggy.
However, today I am comforted by the fact that we are not running in the dark. We might not know everything about this pandemic, but we do know a lot more than we did in March.
And although we only know in part, we are better prepared today than we were in March this year. Our level of civic consciousness and responsibility is much higher. However, to build the resilience that allows us to anticipate the second wave and respond to it, we must do even better.
That is why I must emphasize by repeating what St Francis of Assisi taught us: If we all do the NECESSARY, it will lead us to the POSSIBLE. And indeed at this point, the IMPOSSIBLE will happen without even us REALIZING it.
Starting the next phase of this pandemic by doing the necessary, and working together in unity as we have done, this is how to defeat this COVID menace! And I do believe through that unity of purpose we will can indeed succeed.
I want to once again thank Kenyans across the country, I want to thank all leaders across the country for the manner in which we have been able to work very closely together despite the fact that we have been apart.
If it was not for that working together, we would be where we are, we would not have achieved what we have achieved. I continue to urge you to work together and I am certain that is the surest way to not only to defeat this pandemic but also to ensure that we build a prosperous equitable society in which no single Kenyan feels left behind.
God Bless you. God Bless Kenya