By HENRY OWINO (Senior Science Correspondent)
At this point, almost everyone around the world has been impacted either indirectly or directly by COVID-19. The impact could worsen if healthcare advisories given by authorities are not adhered to especially vulnerable communities around the globe.
COVID-19 is very infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus that has stunned the world. With the increasing number of cases and deaths globally, there is an urgent need for solutions to tackle this pandemic.
Currently World Health Organization (WHO) is leading coordinated efforts together with other global response authorities in ensuring people have relevant and actionable information around Covid-19. This has really helped many countries, authorities and citizens stay informed and follow advice given.
Governments around the world have taken a range of macroeconomic measures to cope with the pandemic, providing tax incentives and cash grants to firms, tax rebates to households, cutting interest rates and launching lending schemes and Quantitative Easing programmes.
Global shocks require a global response. As no country has the fiscal capacity to stand alone, inter-governmental response networks are exploring all healthcare capacities for sake of human race.
At present there is sensitization to the general public on basic health information. These mainly include personal hygiene and social distancing. Kenyans have really done very well especially on frequent hand washing, or hand sanitizing.
The other are not touching one’s mouth, nose, eyes or generally face, ensuring elbow cough or sneeze using disposable tissue to protect self and others from contracting infection, staying or working at home to minimize physical contact among others.
The bone of contention is sustaining social distance of at least one metre apart. Kenyans still gather in crowds despite legal prohibition of such meetings by the national government. Nairobi’s CBD street gamblers are up to business as usual, Jeevanjee gardens citizens politicking in congested crowd as normal, bus parks,markets,hotels,banking halls and estates especially informal settlements milling crowds are even worse.
Surprisingly, in these confused mass crowds, discussions are about latest developments about Covid-19. These include daily advisories and updates given by healthcare providers, national and county public health authorities through respective governments or employers on how to protect oneself and others from Coronavirus.
Social distancing for Kenyans is a thorn in the flesh and this is likely to spur the spread of Coronavirus. Citizens seems not to be bothered of risks they expose themselves in these crowded and congested meetings.
For instance, in Nairobi currently with highest confirmed cases , many have been secretly organizing and meeting at night for traditional weddings, funeral services, family parties/bash, gala dinner and politicking about Coronavirus. Women hold chamas (merry-go-rounds) meetings in hired and fully packed apartments and some in bars risking own lives, partners and their children notwithstanding neighbors.
At day time one would observe crowded salons, kinyozi (barber shops), hotels and restaurants name it, operating under already banned situations.
“We have washed our hands with soap and running water as recommended by government. And so we are free and safe to meet as women group and discuss our agenda,” Mary Awino argued.
“Coronavirus is not spread through meetings but getting in contact with foreigners and citizen from foreign countries. In this slum, we know each other very well and none is from abroad,” Roselyne Akinyi claimed.
Some church owners and leaders are still calling for church services to be shortened just to reap from tithe and offerings. In Mombasa police had to kick out worshipers at certain church that was holding a service against government ban.
Carelessness about handling of Covid- 19 has been displayed even by politicians and public officers who have traveled abroad ignoring to self-quarantine.
Recently, Mutahi Kagwe, Cabinet Secretary for Health while briefing media on Covid-19 situation in the country, expressed his displeasure with Kenyans for not obeying government directives. He disclosed stringent interventions that might force national government to take on.
“Kenyans are suffering from cases of indiscipline. And Kenyans are exhibiting a very indiscipline behavior and this is going to cost us,” Kagwe, CS for Health cautioned.
“If we tell you a matatu should only have eight people, then you do it when being watched by the police, then when you leave the police, you go back to normal. Are you trying to kill yourself or trying to kill the people you are carrying in the matatu.” He posed.
“It is a grievous mistake for us to give you a child not to be exposed, then you go and expose off the child at home. Afterwards you call us back claiming for Government assistance. No it doesn’t work like that,” Kagwe emphasized furiously.
“And it is time for you citizens to assist government because the government cannot work and assist each and every home and child. We want responsibility among every citizen.” The CS for Health reiterated.
It is here that the CS for Health announced further measures would be put in place in views and considerations of Covid-19 developments in Kenya. By this time, Kenya had 25 confirmed cased of coronavirus.
However, by time of going on air March 27, this number had since shot up to 31 confirmed cases and is more likely to rise due to indiscipline behaviors citizens exhibit. Social distancing and staying at home is poorly being managed by Kenyans across the country. This is despite public sensitization through media, billboards, posters, info-graphic on walls, fliers, local leaders, county and national governments the list is endless.
To enforce social distancing among Kenyans, President Uhuru Kenyatta was on March 25 compelled to declare national dusk-to-dawn curfew (7pm-5am) daily until further notice beginning March 27. The ban excludes essential service providers only.
Should this intervention still bear no fruits, then Kenyans must prepare for more severe measures and painful days ahead.
So far, by March 27, one person had succumbed to the deadly virus. Subsequently, Kenya becomes the second country in East Africa after Sudan to confirm a Coronavirus related death. Fourteen countries have confirmed Coronavirus deaths. About a third of cases are in South Africa, which recorded a steep rise overnight.
“The 66 year-old Kenyan man who passed on was suffering from diabetes and arrived in the country on March 13 from South Africa via Swaziland. He died at the Aga Khan Intensive Care Unit on March 26 in the afternoon,” Kagwe, CS for Health said.
Good news is that Kenya reported one recovery on March 25, and more are expected according Cabinet Secretary for Health. He said confirmed cased are aged between 20 and 67 and currently isolated at various facilities.
Whether it is about ignorant or ignorance, Kenyans must now change their social behavior. Otherwise crowds might enable the virus to spread colossally. With the long rains seasons here, it could be a conducive environment for the Coronavirus to thrive.
Health experts are now proposing for complete lock down to the counties seriously affected or vulnerable to Coronavirus. For instance Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Siaya. Others are Homa Bay, Kisumu, Kakamega, Busia, Kajiado, Marsabit, Garissa and Kitui.
And suppose the numbers of cases continue to soar, then the country should be staring at a possible complete lock down.