Defiance, a carefree attitude and dicing with death are slowly taking the coronavirus to the doorsteps of Kenyans with one result — infections, a spread of the virus and ultimately deaths.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has repeatedly shouted himself hoarse on the looming danger and how to avoid it.
However, only a few seem to be taking the warning and advice seriously. We now have three deaths and 110 positive cases.
And “the number will grow exponentially”, Mr Kagwe, for the umpteenth time, warned Thursday.
“Don’t wait to hear someone you know has died; that someone could be you,” he said.
But a survey by the Nation on Thursday showed a majority are not listening. Boda-boda riders are still ferrying more than two passengers with no protective gear.
Traders are interacting with customers oblivious of the possibility of infection while matatu crews always try to get that extra passenger on board.
Kenyans’ defiance of mandates and scientific advice to fight the coronavirus pandemic has led the government to panic, a move that is likely to elicit more stringent measures such as enhancing the current curfew or imposing a total lockdown.
Mr Kagwe could not hide his disappointment with Kenyans who have simply refused to follow rules to contain the virus despite what is happening in the rest of the world.
The number of confirmed cases in the country went up by 29 on Thursday, taking the total from 81 to 110.
Two more deaths were also recorded, bringing to three the number of people who have lost the battle against Covid-19.
The CS said that from the trend, the government is considering stiffer measures.
“Fellow Kenyans, I do not want to scare you, but with the figures I have just read to you, the number is likely to rise. It’s important to note that this virus does not move by itself. It is moved by you and I. We must change our behaviour and attitude if we have to cut the transmission of the virus.
“But as of now, I urge you to take extreme precautionary measures wherever you are, by observing the highest standard of hygiene, social distancing, as well as any other measures the government has announced to you,” he said.
His remarks come just days after Health Director-General Patrick Amoth said the virus is not following a trend and is likely to infect thousands this month.
“We postulate that we could have 1,000 cases by the first week of April, 5,000 by mid-April and 10,000 by end of April,” he said.
The government will inevitably announce more numbers in the coming days since half of those in mandatory quarantine after arriving in Kenya are yet to be tested.
So far, out of the 2,050 travellers who arrived in the country and were put in various quarantine facilities, the government has tested 1,042.
Out of this number, a total of 40 have been confirmed to be positive.
Dr Amoth has also said that we are currently in the community transmission phase with close to 50 of the confirmed cases coming from people who had neither travelled nor come directly into contact with a confirmed patient.
“We have pockets of clusters of community transmission 30 to 40 with no history of travel and no history of interacting with a confirmed case,” he said.
At Thursday’s briefing, the CS revealed a new measure to curb coronavirus spread.
He announced that all public transport users will be required to wear face masks on board. Mr Kagwe said plans are underway to distribute face masks in the counties at a fair price.
“Public service vehicle operators and boda-bodas shall be required to ensure that all their passengers and everybody they carry put on masks to help avert further spread of this disease.”
The minister also declared that the government has identified several players who will produce and distribute the masks countrywide.
“With the assistance of chiefs and bodaboda operators, the masks shall be made available to the public,” the CS said.
Mr Kagwe further noted that there will be no travelling upcountry to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“Those planning to travel for the Easter holidays, please don’t. Even when you are in Nairobi, unless there is something that you are doing, stay at home. It is important for us to start training ourselves to do so,” he said.
LEARN FROM ITALY
Dr Allan Pamba, a public health specialist and the current Nairobi Hospital chief executive Officer, said that Kenyans simply need to follow the government directive to flatten the curve.
He explained that the virus has an incubation period of no less than five days, which starts from the time a person gets infected to the time they show symptoms.
He said that people ignore the measures during this period, go on with life as usual and end up infecting a large number of the population.
Some countries like Italy have gone into lockdown after realising that the population is not complying.
Dr Pamba said that the tragedy of Italy now stands as a warning to Kenya and the rest of the world.
Kenya reported its first case on March 13. Since then, three patients have died, while four others have fully recovered from the killer disease.
The new recovery is that of Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi, two weeks after he was forcefully placed in quarantine.
A 66-year-old Kenyan was the first person in the country to die of the coronavirus. Mr Kagwe said the two people who died were from Nairobi and Mombasa.