Let us not drop the ball, Kagwe urges Kenyans

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020 00:00 |
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. Photo/PD/File

Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah 

The Ministry of Health yesterday made   a passionate appeal to Kenyans to exercise high-level personal responsibility and self-discipline as the country entered a pivotal stage in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his daily brief on the coronavirus situation yesterday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe cautioned against dropping the guard against the disease which is ravaging the whole globe saying, “the ball is now in your court.”

Kagwe made the remarks as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 8, 250 after 183 more people turned out positive from the 2, 061 samples that were tested in the last 24 hours which now bring the total number of people tested to 193,455. 

“I want to make it clear that we did not open because we have contained the disease but because of two things: The balance between the economic activities and our health concerns; we now believe that Kenyans can do both,” he said.

Protecting themselves

Speaking 24 hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted travel ban in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa, Kagwe warned Kenyans saying this should not be misconstrued to mean that the fight against the disease had been won.

He said Uhuru lifted the travel ban and opened places of worship—albeit with conditions—on the grounds that Kenyans were now better equipped with knowledge and skills to protect themselves and their families. 

The Health boss added that the government had to strike a balance between reviving the economic activities by allowing Kenyans to get back work while also minding their safety and health concerns.  

However, he emphasised that the number of infections were rising and the disease spreading across all counties and villagers—presenting a worrying state of affairs— even as Acting Director General of Health Patrick Amoth insisted that the country had not reached its peak. 

“We are convinced that Kenyans are now responsible enough to be able to carry out their economic activities while protecting themselves and their families… it is this believe in our people that made us to open but as the saying goes, the ball is now in your court and everyone else’s court,” he explained. 

“I want to make a special appeal to our people once again, please exercise individual responsibility… I know many parts of the world countries have been forced to close as soon as they opened because people think by opening the disease has been contained,” he added. 

He further challenged Kenyans to put their respective county governments to task in order to ensure that proper measures are put in place to contain a surge in infections noting that devolved units were “being tested now.”  

“Nobody will be ferried to Nairobi (for treatment) and as you already know people are no longer traveling out of the country for example India for treatment…” he said.

County governments are rushing against time to meet President Kenyatta’s directive of 300-bed capacity isolation beds in each county. 

Kagwe warned urban dwellers rushing back to the villagers to be mindful of the older members of the society saying: “It is a new phase altogether and one must ask himself as an individual, do I have to walk into a crowded place where I can get coronavirus?,” he asked. 

“If you know that the place is going to be crowded or the person selling you vegetables doesn’t care about protecting himself or others, don’t go there. Don’t buy from them or enter a matatu which doesn’t obey the measures,” he said.

Kagwe urged Kenyans to shun political and other social gatherings until the disease which has killed 167 people and over 540, 000 globally is defeated saying every citizen now has a personal choice to make. 

He said that he had received calls that some locals in Mombasa were now mingling freely putting lives of many innocent people in danger.

“This is the time where personal responsibility is very crucial… it is you who is going to make something happen or not happen,” said Kagwe.

“Can you across the road while you’re seeing a vehicle driving by fast?” he asked rhetorically.

“It is a war that requires each and every one of us to assume active responsibility of becoming conscious not only for his own safety and that of his family but also for others around them.” 

Health commission

He urged Kenyans to strictly obey the laid down measures such as washing hands with soap regularly, wearing face masks and keeping social distance especially in public places saying this is the only way to flatten the curve.

At the same time, the Taskforce on Mental Health which is co-chaired by psychiatrists Dr Frank Njenga and Dr Lukoye Atwoli has submitted its final reports which made a raft of recommendations including establishment of a mental health commission and happiness.

The commission, the reports says to advice, coordinate and continuously monitor the status of mental health and report on the annual National Happiness Index and declare mental illness a National Emergency of epidemic proportions.

It has recommended that mental health be provided with adequate funding in line with international practices. It also wants the government to prioritise mental health as matter of public health priority and socioeconomic agenda. 

According to Kagwe, one out of 10 Kenyans suffer from a common mental disorder. “The number increases to one in every four people among patients attending routine outpatient services.” He said.

Depression and anxiety are the leading mental illness diagnosed in Kenya followed by substance abuse disorders, he added.

Of great concern, he said, alcohol abuse is more prevalent in people aged between 18-29 years. 

He said that coronavirus has exacerbated the situation with domestic, gender based violence and suicides sharply on the rise. 

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