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President has to strike balance on pandemic

Monday July 06 2020
By EDITORIAL

On June 6, President Kenyatta announced that the containment measures put in place to avert Covid-19 infection would be extended for 30 days and give national and county governments time to make adequate preparations to deal with the crisis.

The 30 days end on Monday and so the President is expected to give a new direction to the country.

When he last addressed the nation, the President pointedly argued that he had been confronted with two rights: To relax the restrictions to reopen the economy and avert pain and misery and continue and even enhance the regulations to stop infections.

STEEP INCREASE

Both options have pros and cons. Relaxing the rules is critical to revive the economy, but is fraught with perils. It’s bound to trigger a surge in infections and create an unmanageable crisis. The healthcare system is frail, as evidenced by statistics now in the public domain.

A steep increase in coronavirus cases would overwhelm the healthcare system, with tragic consequences.

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Likewise, continued controls such as travel restrictions, cessation of movement in some counties, closure of airports and tough rules for hotels and restaurants have translated to huge economic shocks and consequent job losses.

Tourism and the entire hospitality industry is down on its knees. The transport sector is deeply wounded. All other sectors are hugely affected.

At the moment, the country is bleeding and the President is acutely aware about that. The economy is contracting, with painful ramifications. For example, statistics from Labour ministry show that, as at the end of May, the country had lost more than 130,000 jobs in the formal sector.

INFORMAL SECTOR

Figures in the informal sector are difficult to come by due to its iterative nature but they are certainly in their hundreds of thousands. Economic depression has negative social implications such as increased crime and psychological challenges.

Equally, other measures, such as closure of schools, have caused pain to learners.

For now, the greatest fear is the surge in infections. On Saturday, for example, there were 389 new infections, the highest in a day since March. In June, the number stood at 2,600 but has since grown to more than 7,500, meaning the figures have more or less tripled.

Matters are made worse by the fact that, contrary to expectations, the national and county governments have not expanded the health facilities to levels commensurate with the increasing infections. So, there is every reason to worry.

President Kenyatta has to strike a balance. He should relax some of those restrictions to allow economic recovery while maintaining measures to slow down infections.

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