Quarantine is a government cash cow

Friday May 01 2020

Meru residents who violated Covid-19 safety guidelines are quarantined at the Kenya Medical Training College, Meru campus, on April 22, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


To be Kenyan is to be familiar with hopelessness.

In between money meant for our well-being becoming the government’s purse from which to enrich itself and an economy that’s getting harder to eke a living from every day, we are used to leaving our fate to God.

Even nature doesn’t give us a break just because we have a corrupt regime in place, floods, locusts, and Narrow Bee flies are still doing their annual visits, as if we have the capacity to handle more trouble.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic at our door, we had hoped that all Kenyans would put their differences aside just to cross over this pandemic safely, then we could go back to our old ways.

But that is not to be. Instead, this pandemic has turned out to be another thing for the government to punish us.

Last month the government announced a curfew, and that anyone found outside past 7pm would be taken to a quarantine centre at their own cost.



The conditions at some of these centres are horrible, and rarely is any testing done. Besides being separated from their families, quarantined people are being forced to pay Sh2,000 a day or be detained.

It is under these circumstances that some forcibly quarantined citizens at Kenyatta University Hospital were recorded trying to jump from the fourth floor of the building they were being held in.

Although it seems extreme, that is the hopelessness Kenyans are feeling. We have a government that tells us about the billions of shillings it has allocated to this pandemic, then turns around and comes for the little money in our pockets, not because we have been found with the disease, but because for one reason or another we were five minutes late getting to our houses.

It is better to have no government than to have an inhumane one in place. It would have been better had the government ignored the pandemic and let us go through our lives than to use it to clobber us to death, for having an out-of-touch government is a worse death sentence than the virus, as the KU Hospital detainees showed.


It is in these circumstances that Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana announced that those quarantined in his county would be required to bring their own bedding and cooking utensils.

His comments have been met with a lot of criticism, with Kenyans on Twitter terming his measures absurd. Yet in all these, that governor seems to be the only sane voice in this country.

A leader who understands that we have no money to pay for quarantine and allows us to bring our own supplies is a breath of fresh air.

It is better than cramming us into overpopulated campuses and high schools, feeding us badly, not allowing us to see our families, and later slapping us with bills.

If it is our taxes that have run out for them to steal, there are better and more humane ways to ask us to contribute to the government purse, but imprisoning us forcefully and making us pay for it is not the way.

Mwende Kyalo comments on topical issues