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World

Kenya Opens Up Restaurants With New Restrictions

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's a subtlety of reopening businesses. Officials would like you to return to restaurants carefully. They would not like you to drink too much and lose all sense of social distance. That's why authorities in Kenya are trying to enforce a beer-to-sausage ratio. NPR's Eyder Peralta is on it.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: In Kenya, barbecue restaurants - or nyama choma joints - are central to social life. And over the past couple of weeks, they have come back to life.

(LAUGHTER)

PERALTA: Friends gather for lunch, guys grilling beef, goat or pork, crowd around you as you arrive. But a few days ago, Mutahi Kagwe, the health minister, admonished Kenyans for abusing their new freedoms.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MUTAHI KAGWE: It is a fact of life that people have been going to pubs, they order one sausage with two beers.

PERALTA: According to the new rules, the restaurant employees are supposed to keep their distance. They're supposed to be getting tested. They're supposed to be only selling beers with a full meal. But the pork chef here jokes that people are ordering one sausage and five beers, but then realizing the microphone in front of him, he backtracks.

UNIDENTIFIED CHEF: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: He's saying that here it's very dangerous to sell beer because the cops come - if you are selling beer, they come and take away everything.

PERALTA: Police, he says, have started confiscating their wares if they sell too many beers and too few sausages. Epidemiologist Mark Nanyingi says these kinds of off-the-cuff regulations mean the science-based approach the government once took has now changed.

MARK NANYINGI: I think they're acting more on emotions than evidence.

PERALTA: The hospitality business is huge in Kenya, and it's been pressuring the government to open up.

NANYINGI: Opening the restaurant was premature. It would have come to the tail end of opening up public spaces.

PERALTA: Nanyingi says opening restaurants sends the wrong message. And then the minister mandating a beard-to-sausage ratio, he says, makes Kenyans feel like this is all a joke, a kind of permission to be cavalier. Back at the barbecue joint, I find Mike Nganga eating with friends. He says coming to a restaurant isn't the same now. You're sweating behind a mask, and you're paranoid.

MIKE NGANGA: There's that tension. You're still in defense mode.

PERALTA: So why even come out, I ask.

NGANGA: Because we've stayed inside so much.

PERALTA: Who knows when this ends, he says, so it feels like it's time to come out and take your chances. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.