How coronavirus has changed Kenyans lifestyle

Monday, March 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Edgar Otieno and his wife Sheila Oriare during the interview. PD/Evelyne Makena

Evelyn Makena @evemake_g

For the past two weeks, Benson Mutuma, a marketing manager at Officemart Limited has been working from home in line with the government directive on social distancing as part of the war against coronavirus.

It has been a lonely life for him, considering that he lives alone since there is no opportunity for him to visit to interact with colleagues, friends or family members.

“The only thing I interact with on a regular basis is my house. I feel so lonely,” says Mutuma.

Working from home and adhering to the curfew between 7pm  and 5am  imposed by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week, means that individuals and families have to spend a lot of time indoors with little or no contact with the outside world.

 “I do not know where my friends are, I only speak to them on WhatsApp or make a call.

At times, I am stressed out but I have no person to speak to because speaking on phone sometimes lacks a personal touch,” he adds. 

For Mutuma who works with a stationery retail company affiliated with the Chinese, the warning about the threats of the outbreak came way before the first Covid-19 case was announced in Kenya.

“Some of our directors are Chinese and considering how China was severely hit by the virus, they had warned us about its seriousness,” he says.

When Kenya announced its first case, Mutuma and his colleagues were advised to work from home. 

It is a difficult adjustment to make, he says because marketing job entails meeting clients to showcase their products and even test them.

But working from home now means that the much he can do to keep the business going is to send photos of products to potential clients which at times does not convince customers to buy.

Not only has the flexibility to work been curtained but also working from home means less is done.

His work would also entail a lot of travelling around the country to meet clients but that has been put on hold for now.

During weekends, Mutuma would visit his parents and friends in their rural home in Meru but since the directive on social distancing, he has been forced not to make the trips.

During this time when there is need to practise social distancing, routines have been disrupted and families forced to co-exist within close quarters.

Edgar Otieno, a civil servant says that working from home is a tough task especially for parents with young children.

 “Working from home with young children is not easy, unless you lock yourself in a sound proof bunker,” says the father of five children aged between one and 10.

Occasionally, Otieno has to take part in games with his children, put up with the noise and assist with the homework.

These changes have been further exacerbated by the curfew. Though he is working from home, Otieno is on call and thus sometimes has to go to the office. With the curfew, that means he has to be home early.

Though tough, Otieno says it is a positive adjustment since he gets to spend time with his children and understand their daily routines, a luxury he did not have before the disease outbreak.

Before people were advised to social distance, Otieno would leave home every day some minute to 6.00 a.m and return at 8pm thus only get few minutes to spend with the children. Now he has the whole day to spend with them.

“Life is boring with these changes. I can’t hang out with friends, visit social places or even take the children out for swimming and other fun activities,” he says.

Mutuma describes this season as one of the most difficult and wishes that normalcy returns soon.

“It has only been two weeks, but it feels like months. The social life has been affected, business is really low and we are not sure of what the future will look like,” he adds.

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