Do not drop guard amid plan to reopen economy

Thursday, June 4th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Whether or not to reopen the economy is the million-dollar question weighing heavily on President Uhuru Kenyatta and the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus, just two days to the end of the dusk-to-dawn-curfew.

The announcement of the first Covid-19 case in the country on March 13, caused fear, uncertainty and dread on the likely consequences of the pandemic that has been ravaging the world.

To forestall its rapid spread and keep the population safe, the government rolled out protocols, among them suspension of learning, closure of entertainment joints and other businesses, imposition of a curfew and restriction of movement.

The slow down of socio-economic activities has had dire impact on a fragile economy, especially for vulnerable populations.

And close to three months since the country went into limbo, pressure is mounting on the government to reopen the economy.

Though the President has acknowledged the pressure, it is a tough delicate balance—to reopen economy to save Wanjiku from the pain of joblessness and hunger or continue with the lockdown to contain a disease whose infections are rising by the day. 

In the President’s words, reiterated by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho yesterday, the country cannot remain in lockdown forever. 

Yet daily updates on state of the pandemic beg for quite the opposite. Cases are increasing and this week, infections surpassed the 2,000 mark. 

A worldwide spot check shows most economies that have reopened have experienced new cluster infections.

Earlier this week, Lebanon was forced to reinstate lockdowns as cases surged following the re-opening of economy.

On Wednesday, Iraq and South Korea reported peak infections upon re-opening. The same script, more or less, played out in Germany and Singapore.

Consequently, the World Health Organisation has called for caution in return to normalcy. 

Herein now lies the dilemma for the President. 

Our considered view is that while Kenya cannot remain permanently on lockdown, the government cannot afford blind loosening of the restrictions in place.

A carefully planned gradual reopening and strict implementation of safety guidelines prescribed by health experts should be adopted. We cannot afford to drop the guard at this point.

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