Kenyans are a worried lot. And rightfully so because of the casual approach taken by the government in response to the COVID-19 strain of Coronavirus which has been declared a global pandemic by the WHO. Last week, a plane full of Chinese nationals touched down at JKIA airport. This comes as other countries, with enough medical resources and workforce to manage the pandemic, are busy enforcing travel restrictions on flights from China and other affected countries. A few days later, massive panic gripped residents of Athi River as some of the Chinese nationals who had jetted a few days earlier started exhibiting Corona-like symptoms and were then put on quarantine. As all this was happening, one cannot help but ask one critical question. Why is the government playing Russian roulette with Kenyan’s lives?
From the epicenter in China, the Coronavirus has continued to spread unabated to other countries in Europe, the Middle East, and 2 reported cases in Algeria and Nigeria. With infections now standing at more than 90,000 with 3,000 reported deaths, the prognosis looks grim. That any government can still allow chartered flights from China, whose cities are on lockdown, trying to contain the virus baffles me. To add insult to injury, we have Kenyan students still holed up in Wuhan, China, waiting to be repatriated like other students from other Nationalities. Still, the government has decided to look the other way, claiming that they are better off in China.
If countries like the US and UK, with better resources and highly trained workforce to combat the virus, can shut down their borders to planes and ships from affected regions, what makes the government officials think that we are capable of handling the epidemic once it touches the ground? The government has struggled to contain outbreaks like Cholera before, and currently, the locust invasion is proving a tough nut to crack. Your guess is as good as mine, what will happen if COVID-19 strikes. There’s also talk that the country has a shortage of masks.
The president formed a task force of health officials to strategize on the preparation and handling of the COVID-19 in the unfortunate event that it rears its ugly head. But wouldn’t it have been prudent to ban the flights altogether from China that formulate contingency measures? Doesn’t the adage, prevention better than cure ring home?
As it stands, we have been left to our devices. According to WHO, Kenya is one of the 6 countries considered a high-risk zone. We are short of facilities and trained workforce. When asked about our preparedness, the Chief Administration of Staff in the ministry of health, Dr. Rashid Aman, said that there are 11 beds available at KNH. 11 beds. Someone made a joke that the reason the virus isn’t spreading in the affected countries is that African blood has developed some resistance to the disease. We can only hope that that is true. As it stands, we are staring at a calamity with the potential of not only crippling of the economy but also wiping us out.