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From midnight on 9 April 2021 all passenger flights, whether commercial or charter, between Kenya and the UK will be suspended. The suspension will be reviewed by the Government of Kenya within 4 weeks. All passengers coming to Kenya from the UK require a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate and a COVID-19 negative PCR test and must self-isolate on arrival for 7 days. All UK citizens and residents travelling to Kenya from the UK via any route who have a valid COVID-19 PCR test, but do not have a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate, will be subject to 14 days mandatory quarantine on arrival at a Government of Kenya facility at their own cost. All travellers under the age of 18 will only require a certificate of COVID-19 negative PCR test to enter Kenya.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel to:

areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border

Garissa County

Lamu County (excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island)

areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself

within 15km of the coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river

the remainder of Kenya based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks

From 4am on 9 April visitors who have been in or transited through Kenya in the previous 10 days cannot enter the UK. British and Irish nationals and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK arriving in England from Kenya will be required to quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

From 1 January onwards, those with residence rights includes: holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain; holders of existing leave to enter or remain (i.e those with biometric Residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave e.g. students, workers, etc (excluding visit visas); holders of EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) leave; those who have rights of entry under the Withdrawal Agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA Regulations and EEA frontier workers); family members of EEA nationals with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. –

Bitcoin surges past $60,000 as Coinbase stock market float receives green light

Bitcoin surged above $60,000 today after US regulators approved the stock market listing of Coinbase, the largest US cryptocurrency exchange. The landmark decision from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is a major boon to the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies and helped Bitcoin edge closer to its all-time high of over $61,000 achieved last month. Bitcoin rose by more than 2 per cent to $60,103 this morning, from Thursday’s close of $58,728, before settling back at around $59,000 in afternoon trading on Friday. Last night, Coinbase – which made a regulatory filing to go public in February – said that the SEC had approved its application to list in New York. The company, which has been valued privately at around $68billion, expects its shares to start trading on the Nasdaq on 14 April. It plans to go public through a ‘direct’ listing rather than an initial public offering, or IPO.

Under traditional IPOs, companies raise money by selling new shares, while using a direct listing means that no new stock is sold and existing shareholders can sell their shares. It also means that shares are listed directly on an exchange without a prior sale to institutional investors. Founded in 2012, San Francisco-based Coinbase is among the most well-known cryptocurrency platforms globally and has more than 43million users in over 100 countries. For the year to 31 December, the company pulled in total revenue of $1.3billion, compared with $533.7million the year before. It also reported net income of $322.3million, compared with a loss of $30.4million during the same period last year.

News of its stock market listing approval helped lift Bitcoin, which rose by around 12 per cent over the past week after card payment giant Visa said it would allow the use of another digital currency, USD Coin, on its payment network. Meanwhile, PayPal started allowing US consumers to use their cryptocurrency holdings to pay its millions of global online merchants. Bitcoin’s ascent is often put down to purchases by institutional investors and big corporations like Elon Musk’s Tesla, which in February revealed it had snapped up $1.5billion of the cryptocurrency. The world’s most popular cryptocurrency ended 2020 up more than 300 per cent, hit an all-time high of $61,080 in mid-March and has risen by almost 800 per cent over the past twelve months.

Seven deaths in UK among AstraZeneca jab recipients after blood clots

This picture shows vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and a syringe in Paris on March 11, 2021

The UK medical regulator said Saturday that out of 30 people who suffered blood clots after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, seven have died. The British acknowledgement of deaths comes as several European countries have paused the use of the AstraZeneca jab over a potential link to blood clots.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said in a statement that “Out of the 30 reports up to and including 24 March, sadly 7 have died.” The Netherlands on Friday halted vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab for people under the age of 60 after five new cases among women, one of whom died.

Germany took a similar decision earlier this week. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which like the World Health Organization previously declared the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, is expected to announce updated advice on the issue on April 7. The EMA said again on Wednesday it believes the vaccine is safe and that experts have found no specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history.

The UK regulator said that the 30 reports of thrombosis, submitted by medics or members of the public via a government website, came after 18.1 million doses of the vaccine had been administered in the country. Most of the cases (22) were cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a rare condition when a blood clot forms in the brain. Eight other cases saw people suffer thrombosis and low levels of blood platelets, which help blood clot.

There were no reports of blood clots from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine it said, adding that “our thorough review into these reports is ongoing.” The regulator’s website says that on the basis of current data, the benefits of the vaccines against Covid-19 “continue to outweigh any risks”.

AstraZeneca said last month following US efficiency trials that its vaccine is 79 percent effective at preventing the disease and does not increase the risk of blood clots. The UK has administered more than 31 million first vaccine doses, using both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs. People cannot choose which one they get. The UK in June 2020 ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and supported its development. It also ordered 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the same year. – By AFP

British soldiers burn their way to infamy

Deep in the heart of the Laikipia and Samburu plateaus, an expansive grassland dotted with acacia and euphorbia trees, is a military base where hundreds of British soldiers come to improve their tactical combat skills every year.

Troops under the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk) consider the sweltering rough terrain in this region ideal for military training. Under the Defence Co-operation Agreement (DCA) with the Kenyan government, up to six infantry battalions carry out eight-week exercises in Kenya every year.

But in these plains, some in private ranches where rifle fire persistently crackles and mortar explosions are normal, the British war games have had a terrible impact on society, wildlife and environmental conservation.

Although Batuk has been credited with training Kenya Defence Forces troops, gifting military equipment and operational assistance, as well community health and sanitation projects, it has in the past been linked to cases of rape and child abandonment. The unit has also been accused of leaving unexploded arsenal in the fields.

The most recent case relates to a fire that started during a soldiers’ training last week that destroyed some 12,000 acres of the pristine Lolldaiga nature conservancy in Laikipia County.

Although the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in a statement said no elephants were killed in the three-day fire, Lolldaiga is home to more than 400 species of birds as well as mammals such as the rare Grevy’s zebra, leopards and wild dogs.

British soldiers who were training in the conservancy are said to have started the fire on March 24, with the UK government seemingly admitting liability for the tragedy.

The British High Commission has, however, said investigations into the actual cause of the fire are underway.

British troops and employees of Lolldaiga Conservancy battled the inferno for more than four days, only managing to put it out last Sunday.

A preliminary assessment of the damage by KWS shows almost a quarter of the conservancy, which is 49,000 acres, was damaged in the fire.

And a social media post by one of the British Army soldiers seemingly bragging about killing an elephant in an earlier fire remains the subject of investigations by the British military police.

“I am utterly appalled. I think that is outrageous and am very disappointed that a British soldier would post that. It is being investigated,” British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said last week.

Restoration could be done either through natural regeneration or by replanting trees on the 12,000-acre section.

On Monday, an environmental lobby group sued the British Army and the management of Lolldaiga Conservancy over the wildfire that damaged 12,000 acres of Loldaiga Hills in Laikipia County.

The African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action wants Batuk and Loldaiga Conservancy compelled to compensate surrounding communities for environmental damages caused by the fire.

In a petition filed at the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri, the lobby group also wants Batuk and its commanding officer as well as the conservancy to bear the responsibility of restoring the 12,000 acres of bushland that was destroyed.

The lobby group has accused the parties of failing to put in place measures to prevent fires as the British troops take part in training on Lolldaiga Hills, consequently endangering wildlife in the conservancy.

The lobby further argues that the fire resulted in tonnes of carbon emissions, which are likely to cause irreparable damage to the ozone layer.

“As a result of the respondents’ actions, millions of tonnes of carbon emissions have been released into the ozone layer, which are likely to cause irreparable loss and damage to the environment,” the petition read in part.

At the same time, the lobby group is demanding that the British Army and Lolldaiga Conservancy should compensate any beneficiary of the hills as well as any victim of pollution caused by the fire, including residents of the surrounding settlements. –

Capitol Police officer killed, another injured after suspect rams car into police

(CNN) – One US Capitol Police officer has died and another is injured after a suspect rammed a vehicle into a police barricade outside the Capitol building Friday afternoon, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told reporters.

Pittman said the suspect in the attack has also died. The suspect was not on the radar of the US Capitol Police before the attack, but the attack does not appear to be terrorism-related, police said in an afternoon briefing.
Pittman added that the scene is still being processed, and the investigation is ongoing. The DC Metropolitan Police said there is no indication of an ongoing threat. Pittman said she will not release the name of the officer until the officer’s family is notified.
A senior congressional aide and a US Capitol Police source told CNN that after the driver of the vehicle rammed his car into a barricade on Constitution Avenue, the driver exited the vehicle brandishing a knife. USCP responded, shooting the suspect and taking him into custody.

An email from the US Capitol Police, obtained by CNN, confirmed that sequence of events. The email stated Capitol Police officers shot the suspect after he rammed the barricade and exited holding a knife.
A law enforcement official told CNN at least one of the officers was stabbed.
“(US Capitol Police) is responding to the North Barricade vehicle access point along (Constitution) Avenue for reports someone rammed a vehicle into two USCP officers. A suspect is in custody. Both officers are injured. All three have been transported to the hospital,” USCP said in a tweet Friday.

CNN has confirmed that the FBI Washington Field Office is providing support to the Capitol Police.
The incident comes as the security situation on Capitol Hill remains top of mind for many lawmakers despite a recent ramping down of some additional protective measures that were put into place after the January 6 insurrection.

Barbed wire fencing that surrounded the Capitol complex for months after pro-Trump rioters stormed the building has since come down and thousands of the National Guard troops who were deployed in response to the insurrection have since returned home, though thousands still remain in Washington due to lingering security concerns.
The National Guard was seen responding to Friday’s attack, and later confirmed it had been deployed to the Capitol.

“The DC National Guard deployed a Immediate Response Force (IRF) composed of National Guard soldiers and airmen to the Capitol complex this afternoon to support the U.S. Capitol Police. Due to operational security, we cannot discuss further details regarding the IRF,” the National Guard said in a tweet.

“No National Guard members were injured in the incident at the Capitol. Currently, approximately 2,300 National Guard members are in DC supporting local, state, and federal authorities in DC,” it added.
The long-term security posture at the Capitol has also become a topic of increasing debate in recent weeks as congressional committees continue to move forward with their investigations into failures around the January 6 attack. –

British government to ban travellers from Kenya from entering its territory

After abrupt ban on Kenyan arrivals, UK tries to soothe angry Nairobi – Unused check-in desks at Heathrow airport Terminal 5 in west London on September 9, 2019.

A decision by the British government to ban travellers from Kenya from entering its territory, to tame Covid-19 cases, is eliciting anger among Kenyans, with many terming it discriminatory. But London argues “scientific evidence” based on tests, which showed a rise in positive cases among arriving passengers from Nairobi.

More than 30 per cent of the cases were new variants of the virus first detected in South Africa, the UK claims. Sources told the Nation on Friday that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will seek to explain the stance to Kenyan diplomats, but will not rescind the decision meant to “protect public health”.

Deadlier variant
According to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and development Office (FCDO), a significant number of arrivals from Nairobi have tested positive, with nearly a third of the positive cases carrying the B.1.351 variant which originated from South Africa.

The indication may mean Kenya has not been strict on travellers from South Africa and other regions where the variant was detected. On Friday, the UK added Kenya, Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh on its ‘Red List’ of countries where arrivals are refused entry into the UK.

The directive means visitors who have either transited through or departed from Kenya in the past 10 days cannot enter the UK. It means all travellers, except nationals and residents, arriving from Nairobi will be turned away at the airport.

“From 0400 UK time on 9 April, visitors who have been in or transited through Kenya in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England,” said an update from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. British, Irish and third world country nationals with residence rights arriving from these countries will be required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days.

Flights from these countries will not be banned but the restrictions mean only nationals of the UK and legal residents will be allowed into the UK, and will be forced to quarantine for 10 days, during which they will be compelled to take two tests of Covid-19. The UK demands testing on the second and eight days of quarantine. Those who test negative after 10 days will be allowed to leave the specified quarantined centres.

Retaliation unlikely

At least 500 people travel to the UK every week from Kenya, making it one of the most stable flight routes out of Nairobi. The ban by the UK ran counter to Kenya’s own decision last December when it resolved not to bar UK arrivals after a new variant of the virus was discovered in the UK.

Health minister Mutahi Kagwe said at the time available measures were sufficient to control infections. “We have very strict travel measures with the UK, which the US and the Europeans did not have. We are carefully observing every passenger travelling from there,” Mr Kagwe said, after 53 countries temporarily banned travellers from the UK.

“We will, therefore, make decisions based on scientific advice as well as any additional advice from WHO. We are not part of the EU (European Union).” With the new directive, it is still unlikely that Kenya could retaliate. But some Kenyans accused the UK of “medical racism”.

Of the 39 countries on the Red List, none is in Europe. Most are in Africa and Asia, with others in South America.“Once the US, UK and EU reach herd-immunity by June, it will close itself against Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Asia. It will be medical racism,” argued lawyer Donald Kipkorir.

Timing suspicious

Many of the citizens responding to the announced ban questioned the timing of the restrictions, days after British soldiers were accused of bringing in a new variant from the UK on their field training mission in Kenya.

The FCDO says, however, that the measures are only temporary and that a risk assessment will be done to review the restriction. “The travel restrictions will only remain in place whilst the level or risk is assessed to justify these measures,” the UK said.

It noted that several countries, including Portugal and Mauritius, have been removed from the Read List following heightened measures against the virus. The UK gave the example of increased genomic surveillance to reduce the risk posed by variants that have raised particular concern.

The UK initially required proof of a negative test to allow visitors into its territory, but it later created the Red List of countries considered high risk regions. Kenya had been spared the wrath, even as Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burundi and Somalia were listed. –

Family Bank defies Covid, posts rise in its earnings

UN Global Compact Kenya Network Executive Director Judy Njino (left) hands over the membership certificate to Family Bank CEO Rebecca Mbithi which will see Family Bank become the fourth bank in Kenya to officially join the United Nations.

Family Bank posted a 22.4 percent growth in net profits to Sh1.1 billion for the year ending December 2020 courtesy of increased lending despite the coronavirus scourge that hit business.

The lender posted Sh949 million the previous year but says it defied the Covid-19 pandemic by growing its loan book to Sh56.6 billion while supporting customers who saw opportunities despite the difficult year.

Targeted sectors in manufacturing, agribusiness, trade, logistics and technology saw the lender grow interest income from Sh7.1 billion in 2019 to Sh8.8 billion last year.

“Our loan book expanded by 11.8 percent year on year to close at Sh56.6 billion as we continued to support our customers who saw new opportunities despite the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Family Bank Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Mbithi.

Non-performing loans

Net interest income grew by Sh1.4 billion growth to Sh6.4 billion compared to Sh5 billion in a similar period in 2019. The bank’s operating expenses increased by to Sh7.6 billion from Sh6.3 billion mainly driven by loan loss provisions, which increased by more than 2.5 times from Sh734 million in 2019 to Sh1.62 billion in 2020. This was in response to Sh1.1 billion growth in non-performing loans to Sh9.3 billion as customers struggled to meet repayments during the difficult year. –

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