President Uhuru Kenyatta has warned traders against taking advantage of coronavirus to increase prices of goods and services.

Speaking in Nairobi at a meeting with the banking sector, the president said it was a crime to use the unfortunate situation to increase prices and action will be taken against those found guilty. “It is immoral to take advantage of a situation like this to enrich yourself. We are monitoring each sector and action will be taken against those found guilty,” he warned.

His remarks come a few days after Competition of Authority of Kenya (CAK) ordered Cleanshelf Supermarket to contact and refund all customers who purchased hand sanitisers above the normal retail price. Through a press release, CAK says that the supermarket adjusted the prices of the Tropikal hand sanitisers (500ml) on March 15 due to the high demand following reports of coronavirus in Kenya. Cleanshelf Supermarkets normally retails the specific hand sanitizers as Sh800. However, the Authority has determined that the retailer on March 15 sold the same batch of product to consumers at varying amounts above Sh800/=, including Sh1000/=, with the prices increasing within hours. The President issued the warning at a meeting with Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge and Kenya Bankers Association Chairman Joshua Oigara at State House in Nairobi. As a measure to combat the spread of the virus, Dr. Njoroge said all money coming outside banks will be quarantined for a week. “We have also taken several measures to cushion individuals from the effects of the coronavirus; banks will work with individuals in need of restructuring loan repayments. Banks will be flexible to allow restructuring personal loans up to a period of one year,” he added. He also said the banks are open to renegotiate repayment period for the SMEs and Corporates. “Banks will meet all the costs related to the extension and restructuring of loans,” Njoroge said.

CBK enforced several measures to reduce contact with money to minimize the spread of coronavirus; Mobile money companies will, for instance, remove charges on transactions below Sh1000. The Monday meeting with Payment Service Providers (PSPs) also resolved that the daily limit for mobile money transactions is increased to Sh300,000, the mobile money wallet limit is increased to Sh300,000 and the monthly total limit for mobile money transactions eliminated. Also, the current tariff for mobile money transactions for Sh70,000 will apply for transactions up to Sh150,000 and PSPs and commercial banks will eliminate charges for transfers between mobile money wallets and bank accounts.

In Kenya, the first case was confirmed last Friday. Various restrictions such as strict travel arrangement, working at home and closing of learning institutions were announced. Other restrictions have since been placed by individual governors in their respective counties. But barely three days into the restrictions, small-scale traders in Nairobi are already wailing over coronavirus-induced hardships.

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