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Let’s fight coronavirus; we are in this together

Wednesday March 25 2020

coronavirus

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi sensitises Uasin Gishu County residents on coronavirus, in Eldoret town on March 25, 2020. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CAROLYN OCHICHI
By CAROLYN OCHICHI
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The novel coronavirus pandemic requires all our collective missiles to attack it — sociocultural, medical, economic, political, behavioural and even spiritual.

That is why Saturday’s inter-religious national prayer day achieved a lot in comforting an increasing paranoid nation.

But the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) signature recommendation: the best defence against Covid-19 is frequent hand-washing.

That way, you eliminate any virus on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

Importantly, obey the experts. As Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe keeps repeating, this disease is not a joke. Neither is it a myth.

But are we really serious about these guidelines? Maybe a morbid example about the Spanish Flu can make us understand the gravity of the situation.

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PARADIGM SHIFT

On September 28, 1918, in Philadelphia, a grand march organised to raise money for the World War I effort had the usual Americans patriotic zeal: more than 200,000 people turned out.

Coincidentally, there was an outbreak of Spanish Flu in Europe and Asia. And what was the American trigger? The returning soldiers from the European war front!

By October 1, there were 635 new cases in the state. In six months, about 16,000 had died and there were more than half a million cases.

This shows the benefit of cancelling mass gatherings and employing social-distancing measures during pandemics.

Covid-19 also comes with underlying paradigm shifts. To quote Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

What we have always called the “norm” will never be the same again, and, ideally, should not.

Covid-19 is introducing, particularly to us Kenyans, new concepts such as social distance and self-quarantine as much as reinforcing old concepts, like handwashing with soap, something epidemiologists have repeated ad nauseam to clients.

CHINESE INVESTMENT

The paradigm shift is also being forcibly introduced to our whole belief system — from territorial defence to humanity defence.

For instance, I dare say, if health and vitality would be the centrepiece of our collective ethos, then even our Head of State would not be referred to as Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces but Protector-in-Chief of the Kenyan People.

The instruments of power that are passed down successive presidents ought to be a stethoscope rather than a sword — a symbolic yet powerful positioning of health and well-being.

China has announced a Sh8.3 billion investment in a centre for disease control (CDC). That’s a fraction of Kenya’s defence spending (Sh121 billion) — which does not seem to make sense now that the coronavirus cannot be shot or bombed.

More US soldiers died of Spanish Flu than they did in WWI combat. Lastly, Covid-19 has proven true the biblical dictum that you are your brother’s keeper.

World over, scientists are looking for a cure and vaccine; it matters not where from. We have finally realised that, as in my favourite movie, "High School Musical":

“We’re all in this together;

Once we know, that we are

We’re all stars,

And we see that

We’re all in this together,

And it shows, when we stand

Hand in hand

Make our dreams come true.”

Ms Ochichi is an epidemiology expert. [email protected]

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