Why we are our own worst enemies in fight against Covid-19
By Jacob Oketch
We are still in the thick of covid19 health restrictions and there seems to be no signs of easing them as the number of infections and deaths continue to rise.Unfortunately, these restrictions have spawned other challenges that we face as Kenyans.
During weekends, many Kenyans get involved in breaking the law and this puts them in conflict with the police. The police themselves are complicit in soliciting bribes from the citizens who want to evade punishment .Either way, there is a problem. The level of brutality meted on the people by the police is equally unacceptable.
What we miss in all this, is that we are prolonging the time for our recovery because all that we are doing is exacerbating the situation of the pandemic. I wonder what is so hard about observing the protocols. We must be cognizant of the fact that the pandemic is not about to end and how we behave will determine if the pandemic will stay or go away.
I like the analogy drawn by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni between the pandemic and war. He says that at a time of war, schools, meetings and things like that are not in the minds of the people. The basic necessity, in that situation is safety. Even food ceases to be a priority. And that is exactly how we ought to perceive our situation. If we are keen enough, we can see that the latest restrictions have disrupted schools once again. We do not have the luxury to plan for things as if we are in a normal situation.
If you go to some of the peri-urban markets in Nairobi such as Kangemi and the likes, you may be shocked that it is only you and a handful around who are wearing masks. It is so casually treated that I wonder whether the government should introduce a mask mandate across the country. But I thought that it is already a mandate so where is the enforcement? Our police officers need to up their game. It is worrying that one of the weakest links in the fight against the pandemic is the enforcement officers.
Corona virus pandemic is an equal opportunity infection. It didn’t discriminate against any nation.Infact, it hit the richer nations like the US much harder. It is time we realized that we are not unique or special in any way, by being afflicted. The challenges we face are equally faced by all around the world. And that is why we ought to follow the rule of law in an effort to contain the pandemic. All these altercations between law enforcement officers and wananchi make an already bad situation worse. When did we lose the path to civility, empathy and real sense of nationhood?
The situation is made even worse by the fact that there is a delay in acquisition of more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to the fact that the manufacturer, India has scaled down the supply of the vaccine so as to deal with the domestic surge. That means that our vaccination process has to slow down and that endangers people further. And that is why it has become even more imperative to observe the health protocols to avoid more infections at all costs.
With there being no sign of ease of restrictions, it is important that the public adhere to them to avoid confrontation with law enforcement officers.However,the officers must also adhere to the same rule of law and not victimize innocent citizens. If indeed we believe we are in a situation of war as President Museveni wants us to, then we must be ready to behave like soldiers. Confront the enemy without whining about non issues and with the requisite discipline. The security officers are the frontline workers in this respect and we want them to behave as such-not brutalizing the same people they are supposed to protect.
As a country, we are lucky not to have experienced any meaningful war of any kind. But we really ought to visualize that scenario as far as the pandemic is concerned. What do you refer to a situation where you cannot do what used to be the norm? What do you refer to a situation where you cannot mourn loved ones respectfully? What do you refer to a situation where you cannot greet and hug people as you used to? Isnt it war? We ought to change our mindset and worldview when it comes to effectively tackling this pandemic.
That is why any effort towards tackling the pandemic ought to intensively involve the input of behavior change communication. The ordinary Kenyan will not take the pandemic seriously if it is not repeatedly drilled into them to do so. Apart from the radio and TV adverts that we have been having since the onset of the pandemic, other strategies ought to be employed by the government to address the issue of awareness. These are the kind of interventions that Kenyans want the government to expend public money on-and not to be looted and wasted as we have seen in the past.
The writer is the author of Aphorism and Poems of Light.