Kenyans warned against lowering guard on coronavirus fight

Monday, May 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Chief Administrative Secretary for Health Rashid Aman addresses the media on coronavirus. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Noah Chepleon @cheploennoah

Kenyans are lowering their guard on the coronavirus fight, with a huge number of people behaving as if the pandemic is already behind us, the government warned yesterday.

The gravity of the unfolding threat of the pandemic was captured in the confirmation of 30 cases yesterday bringing the total to 465 with Mombasa and Nairobi still standing out as the hot spots. The first case in then country was reported on March 13.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman was the first to raise the red flag when he singled out matatus and eateries for flouting rules meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, especially social distancing.

“I must say we have noted with dismay the casual attitude with which some of our people are not observing these measures.

We have observed that some eateries are not only operating without any regard to social distancing requirement and are even open deep into curfew hours,” he stated.

The government has put in place a raft of measures such as social distancing, hand washing, closure of bars and restaurants, isolation and quarantine for suspected cases to curb the spread of the disease which is wreaking havoc across the world.

Other measures, include closure of schools and other learning institutions, wearing of face masks, prohibiting movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera counties which are designated as high risk areas. 

With reports that a big number of Kenyans especially in the big towns were already returning to the old ways of partying and merrymaking this past weekend, questions are emerging whether the government sent out the wrong signal by allowing hotels to start opening, albeit with stringent conditions.

Aman said the National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) is looking into the matter afresh adding that the measures put in place could be tightened if need be. 

Casual conduct

“My appeal therefore is to abide by the containment measures already highlighted.

If we do not, the spread of this disease will be extensive and it will be very difficult to contain,” he said, adding that they have reports that some mosques have revised prayers time and are now doing it at night. 

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, who accompanied Aman, warned that the re-emergence of traffic jams in Nairobi and the casual behaviour among Kenyans were detrimental to the success of the war against the pandemic.

“More than 50 per cent are keeping the mask below the nose while others are leaving it hanging around the neck.

I have also seen others keeping it inside the pocket and only wear it when they see police... it is for your own safety and not for police,” said Magoha.

Yesterday, Aman warned that the country is losing the gains made so far. 

Of the 30 new cases, 19 are in Mombasa, eight in Nairobi, two in Bungoma and one in Kitui.

A total of 883 samples were tested in the last 24 hours and the new patients are aged between  four and 67 years. There are now 15 recoveries and two more deaths, Aman said.

He cited the apathy that has greeted mass testing in Kawangware and Eastleigh in Nairobi and Mvita in Mombasa saying that this was not a good indication. 

“The ministry has acquired the capacity to undertake targeted testing, but the willingness of the people to be tested is low.

I want to appeal to Kenyans to willingly come forward to be tested. If we have to flatten the curve, mass testing will be the best option,” he said.

The CAS said the test will be conducted free of charge.

He also expressed concern that many Kenyans are shying away from hospitals for non-corona related illnesses, saying this could spell trouble in future. 

“I call upon all Kenyans to continue accessing health services in their preferred facilities. Our records are indicating low visitation for health services.

Let us all be reminded that this kind of health-seeking behaviour can lead to other more serious consequences. 

At the same time, Magoha said schools would remain closed until the government finds it safe to reopen. 

“Even it were you, would you open schools now considering the situation we are in?” he asked.

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