Is Kenya in reverse gear on Covid-19?

A woman is tested for Covid-19 at St Teresa’s Girls School in Eastleigh, Nairobi, last month. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Reopening the economy means being certain we have the capacity to deal with increased cases
  • There’s need for a tactical middle ground and swift thinking on what increased Covid-19 cases means for a country with numerous structural and leadership challenges.

It was predicted that it’ll take a while for African countries like Kenya to be specific, to witness a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases. This wasn’t because of the weather or melanin as was previously falsely alluded but rather because of Africa’s international travel intensity.

In fact, the first confirmed cases of the virus in Africa were from inbound European nationals. The in-between period of the virus being declared a global pandemic to confirmation of Kenya’s first case and finally to this stage where we are starting to see a rising curve should’ve been for proper preparation.

That being said, Kenya is now seeing a steady rise of Covid-19 cases, which isn’t entirely surprising because the previous testing capacity was constrained, making it impossible to know how many people had already contracted the virus.

I am, for this reason, glad that we are continuously testing more people on a daily basis. However, testing is not equal to immunity. The number of infections is concerning because the proper preparation I started by mentioning hasn’t been actualised.

MOVEMENT RESTRICTIONS

While the virus is now in almost all the counties, county hospitals don’t seem ready with adequate bed capacities, additionally hired medical staff, PPEs or ventilators. These are the things that preparation was to deliver but somehow fell through the cracks.

On the other hand, movement restrictions have been loosened, restaurants reopened, political leaders are gathering without obeying any health measures, sending mixed messages that people should go back to living as if the pandemic is over.

Caution seems to have been abandoned, yet the virus is on the rise. Reopening the economy means being certain we have the capacity to deal with increased cases because what’s certain is that a viral spread is imminent.

This should be the time to re-evaluate how to ensure those who get tested are treated, reducing the spread and granting some kind of workable control over the virus.

CONTACT TRACING

This is the time to question the role of devolution and county leadership in ensuring people don’t end up in disarray.

To loosen restrictions now means a subsequent strain on contact tracing, loss of control on treatment and care, which, as we are aware, is now becoming the burden of individual households with the introduction of home-based care.

This new care will make a Covid-19 patient the responsibility of people who live in households that communally share facilities like toilets, bathrooms and common areas, making it theoretically palatable but a practical nightmare.

There’s need for a tactical middle ground and swift thinking on what increased Covid-19 cases means for a country with numerous structural and leadership challenges.

Scheaffer Okore is a policy analyst; [email protected]