Open Letter to His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta
Mr President, I am writing to bring to your attention a few issues relating to gaps in the implementation of the Covid-19 containment measures that are actually frustrating the government’s intervention.
The military approach we are using, implemented by the police, on a largely public health issue is simply not working. No wonder there’s little success achieved.
First, the absence of health sector officials in the implementation of the containment measures, especially the cessation of movement in some zones, curfew hours, use of face masks is very telling.
Among the most strategic interventions in dealing with pandemics such as contact tracing and community education are missing in the current approach.
Secondly, public health officials have reportedly refused to accompany police on swoops and at roadblocks because they are purely rent-seeking activities that do little, if not nothing, to help the community understand or participate in containing the outbreak.
Thirdly, the 8pm curfew hour for Nairobi, Machakos, Kajiado, Nakuru and Kiambu counties is simply punitive and actually not working.
It should be reviewed to save Kenyans the unnecessary suffering it exposes them to.
That even those with genuine travel documents are not subjected to vetting measures such as temperature-check is dangerous.
Visits by public health officials to those undergoing home-based care is no longer happening.
The ugly scenes witnessed on roads as people rush to beat curfew hours don’t help curb the pandemic in any way.
Such panic interventions make the country appear unprepared and lacking in health policy.
They only serve to facilitate corruption and promote unhealthy competition among government agencies like what is happening between the police and the public health officials.
The complacency on the part of the authorities especially officers managing cessation check points, the behaviour by motorbike riders to sneak in and out persons from the areas, and Kenyans who seem determined to showcase impunity by breaking the government directives are indeed frustrating public health interventions to contain the pandemic.
The military approach in dealing with Covid is problematic and has forced members of the public to not fully feel part of the solution.
The security teams have let us down by allowing impunity and facilitating spread of the virus through social networks, social gatherings and failure in assisting the health teams in tracing the high-risk populations, or making the exercise a criminal enterprise.
It is wrong for some police and administrators at the local levels to continue protecting those flouting such presidential directives, especially during such times like now. It endangers the lives of Kenyans.
Roadblocks are ineffective as people either bribe their way or use riders to dodge or walk past the check points with impunity, making a mockery of these stops.
Also people wear masks below their noses while many washing/sanitisation points remain unused.
Let us reactivatee the multi-agency emergency teams at the local levels to deal with the pandemic instead of leaving it only to the police to lead the Covid response.
With people still required to work until 5pm by their employers, please move the curfew to 11pm and ease the suffering people are enduring in Nairobi. — The writer deputy CEO and Programmes Manager at the Media Council of Kenya