Partial reopening of economy was the right decision

Monday, July 13th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta giving a State of the Nation address Photo/PD/FILE

After almost four months of cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa as part of measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, President Uhuru Kenyatta has finally relaxed the rules. 

People have been allowed to start moving freely again in and out of these two cities, which have been the epicentres of the spread of infection. The key consideration of the reopening was to stop further deterioration of the economy, and begin the turnaround.

It is a very delicate balance, one that has been giving government mandarins throughout the world sleepless nights. Even countries badly ravaged by the spread of the infection like the US, Italy and Spain, are now gradually easing the lockdowns.

As Kenya reopens, the country must jealously guard the gains that have already been made. 

Firstly, Kenya has now reached the 10,000-case threshold in July that had been predicted in April 2020. In that way, Kenya has bought two and a half months of preparation. 

Testing has been ramped up, and the country now has a much better picture of both geographical spread within Kenya, as well as community spread within counties.

It is of great concern that the virus now seems to be taking a definite foothold in some counties, just at the time that Nairobi and Mombasa are being reopened. 

Counties such as Kiambu, Nakuru, Machakos, Busia, Kajiado are counties where the virus seems to have established a firm beachhead, and cases are steadily adding up. These counties need to drastically up their game and take strong measures of containment. 

The good news is that the country now has some success models of counties that have successfully driven back the spread of infection.

Kilifi and Mandera managed to root out infections completely, and have remained virus-free for weeks, while Mombasa has seen its infection figures come down progressively over the last few weeks to single digit in a day.

So it can be done, but county governors must show up to the office. Even as the cases grow, little is heard from governors like Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado ), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) who should be stepping up and leading the efforts for containment. 

Others like James Nyoro (Kiambu) seem invisible even as that county threatens to take Nairobi’s trajectory.

As stated, governors stepping up are especially crucial now that Nairobi has been reopened. As expected, the exodus out of Nairobi has been in full cry since reopening.

With schools closed for the rest of the year, many parents are taking their children upcountry to cut costs, others lost jobs and can no longer afford to stay in Nairobi. Yet for many others, businesses that were suspended have to be restarted. 

For counties, the challenge of Covid-19 is now coming home, and unless all the protocols and containment measures are rigorously enforced, they face rising case numbers.

Counties can keep Covid-19 cases low, or lock them out completely for those yet to experience a case. 

Keeping Covid-19 out of the counties will enable the Government to give Nairobi special focus.

Nairobi remains a growing epicenter. Unlike Mombasa where some measure of success has been achieved in rolling back infection spread, Nairobi’s trajectory is on an upward trend. 

Nairobi seems to have dropped the ball. Bars have been reopened, and people are drinking with abandon. Too many people are wearing masks as ornamental, protecting no-one. 

Matatus are no longer bothering with sanitisers, washing of hands, or even proper wearing of masks by crews. Boda bodas are equally culpable.

While in principle people must take personal responsibility, the Government cannot wash its hands and leave it at that. It has a duty to eliminate Covid-19 from the country.

These reckless people will cause the deaths of a lot of innocent people if Government does not intervene.

Further, it is its duty to eliminate Covid-19. And unless Covid-19 infection is rooted out from Nairobi, the rest of the country can never be declared free from risk. This is because Nairobi is the fulcrum around which the country rotates, and it will keep the country sick for as long as it remains the epicenter of this pandemic. - [email protected]

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