Holders of the Kenyan passport cannot access 54 countries as more nations put up restrictions against new variants of COVID-19.

According to the Henley Passport Index, Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Cambodia, UK, Canada, Portugal, Denmark, Bulgaria and Singapore top the list of countries that have banned or placed restrictions on holders of Kenyan passports. Others countries include Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Chile, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Cameroon, the only African country to place restrictions on Kenya.

The highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant first detected in India may spark a fourth wave of infections in Kenya over the next two months, according to the Ministry of Health.

The rapidly transmissible variant is dominant in western Kenya, where it was initially detected in the country. The government imposed restrictions on movement in the region, terming it as a red zone, to try and stem it from spreading nationwide.

“Borders remain firmly closed in several countries, including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, while many others continue to ban travelers from high-risk regions,” says the Henley & Partners report.

However, Kenya has not retaliated against the 54 countries, after it left a handful of countries whose citizens need to quarantine before they are allowed into the country in a last month review.

These include Ireland, Kuwait, Pakistan Brunei and Thailand whose citizens are required to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Even with confidence around vaccination, many countries are preparing to sign off on plans for unrestricted travel for people who have had both jabs.

About 1.53 million people have been vaccinated so far, of which 511,520 have received their second doses.

The government of Kenya expects to receive 13 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses from August and targets to vaccinate more than 10 million people by end of December, and the entire 26 million adult population by end of 2022.

The Henley Passport Index report further indicates that the number of countries that Kenyans can visit without a visa has also dropped from 79 in December, 64 in quarter two of this year to 59 in what it linked to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Kenyan passport also lost its strength in Africa, dropping from the ninth position to 11 where it ties with Tanzania and Ghana. The Passport Index shows Kenya ranked behind Seychelles, South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia and Swaziland among other African States.

Some of the countries that Kenyans can access without visa or get one on arrival include Singapore, Hong Kong, Jamaica and Fiji.

Kenya rolled out new chip-embedded passports for its citizens in a move that targets rampant forgery and impersonation of holders. The launch of the e-passports with a 10-year validity period marked the beginning of the end of the ‘analogue’ passports that have been in use since Independence and has since join 60 other countries that use e-passports.