Nearly two weeks ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed a desire to lift the Covid-19 containment measures to reopen the economy.
Subsequently, he promised on Madaraka Day early this week that he will give directions on the next steps today.
So, today, the public is eagerly awaiting his direction. After nearly three months of partial lockdown, the overwhelming desire of the citizens is for relaxation of the rules.
They have suffered so much but bore the pain with fortitude because it was for a good cause. Coronavirus is a killer and statistics from other parts of the world, mainly Europe and America, have demonstrated how lethal it is.
For developing countries like Kenya, prevention is the best option and containment is the strategy for achieving that.
When the President announced the regulations, the world was overwhelmed and fear gripped everyone.
No country knew for certain how to deal with the pandemic. The World Health Organization provided protocols to guide countries to deal with the crisis and the overriding fact was that since the virus is a public health challenge, minimising interaction was the best solution of averting its spread.
Work stoppage, cancellation of public gatherings and curtailment of travel have significantly cut infections.
Arguably, the measures have borne fruit. Kenya, for example, minimised infections. Initial projects had forecast a doomsday scenario where, by now, the country would be reeling under massive deaths and devastation. However, that did not come to pass.
Even so, the world has since learnt many lessons. Lockdowns or partial closures have inflicted unprecedented pain on countries and individuals. Economies have been crushed, jobs lost and businesses demolished.
Sectors such as tourism and hospitality, transport including aviation and education are grounded.
Kenya’s economic projections have been scaled down drastically to about 1.8 per cent in 2020, compared to 5.4 per cent in 2019.
Revamping the economy is pushing the government into heavy borrowing.
But fear looms large that relaxation of the rules would trigger a spike in new infections. In recent weeks, the numbers have been rising and as of yesterday, the total cases had reached 2,474.
Already, despite the regulations, the citizens have returned to their old interactions, oblivious of the inherent dangers. So without the rules, things may get out of hand.
For President Kenyatta, therefore, the challenge is to strike a balance between curbing infection and saving the economy. Our view is that he should relax the rules to reopen the economy while pushing for compliance to health protocols to curb infections. The lockdown cannot continue forever.