#MohammedHersi’s take on the way forward

MY GUT FEELING TELLS ME KENYA AND AFRICA HAVE DODGED THE COVID19 BULLET

By Mohammed Hersi

(Posted 26th May 2020)

Has Kenya and Africa dodged the Covid19 bullet? My gut feel tells me Yes.

Can we undo the gains ? Is the risk still present? Well sadly the answer is again yes.

When the Covid 19 virus was first reported by WHO we all thought it will be contained and it will remain in China or at most a few neighbouring countries to China. We became all agitated as Southern China flight continued to ply the Nairobi route and our very own national carrier Kenya Airways had stopped flying to Guangzhou.

Well the virus never reached us via China but one of our own returning Kenyan via London followed immediately by another Kenyan via the USA.

I am not here to delve into history but it is important we reflect as we plan ahead.

Firstly I wish to congratulate and thank H.E The President for the swift action in tackling Covid. The appointment of C.S Kagwe infused new life into the health ministry which was in the news more often for all the wrong reasons and he is certainly the right man for the job and he came in at the right time.

Folks, we were facing a strange virus and it is still is so. It is always best to take extreme measures as opposed to trying to take action when things are already out of control .

Suspension of flights was the right move then as much as we were shocked by that swift action. As Tourism players we were not happy then but in retrospect we now believe It was the right thing to do.

Closure of airports led to no arrivals hotels and resorts had to close by default , a position never imagined would ever happen. As I write this tourism and the entire economy is belly up.

Schools and learning institutions were also closed followed by places of worship be it mosques, churches or temples and since then have leading holy sites like Mecca and the Vatican all closed shop and it was the right thing to do.

Curfew followed and I think this really helped to slow down the infection rate as we never knew much about the virus, followed by the cessation of movements in and out of Nairobi, Kwale, Mombasa and Kilifi counties.

Now what next ?

Two days ago we were warned that August & September will be the infection peak and that was not the kind of news we wanted to hear considering that we are all feeling the impact of closures in our business and life.
A day later H.E came out with a more reassuring position in that we cannot remain under lockdown for ever. He reckons we need to reopen but the big question is the how. He was also very clear that responsibility will then shift to you and I. We must keep an eye on August and September, we must respect the experts.

Since we now understand the virus better, what do we know?

80% of infected persons heal without any medical intervention while a very small percentage get hospitalised and even fewer end up in using ventilators.

While we lag behind in testing we now need to look at Morbidity Vs Mortality. You may have the virus but may not die from it. It looks like Kenya and Africa is a beneficiary so is Japan and even the UK where 80% of the mortality are people over the age of 60.

While morbidity may not be visible we cannot hide or cover mortality . So far we have lost 51 Kenyans and half of those fatalities had underlying conditions while a huge percentage have recovered. From this it looks like we dodged the Covid19 bullet. It could be our huge youth population, could be our diet, no junk and all the fresh food, then could also be our immune system … the jury is still out on this one but also don’t we rule out divine hand in this since most of us are believers.

It was predicted that by end April Kenya would have 10,000 cases and Africa would hit 500,000 and above. From one of the graphs on mortality the same days after the 1st case was reported in Kenya we are now at 51 while places like Italy , USA and UK were all past the 10,000 mark in mortality at the same time.

Now what is the way forward , well please allow me to share my 10 points

1. We must double our efforts to sanitize. Wash hands and sanitise at all times. These days even ordinary flu has taken a hiding.

2. We must continue to wear masks, especially in public spaces.

3. Introduce temperature checks at public places before entry. In case if anything above 38C means you are denied entry and a report made to Covid centre. No taking chances.

4. Social distancing must continue if anything let’s up the game and we go physical distancing. Kenyans we are quite poor with this. Don’t get too close.

5. Lift the cessation order affecting Nairobi, Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa counties. We need to reopen trade but in a gradual manner.

6. Review the curfew hours to 9pm. 7pm means leaving offices at 3pm to beat traffic. This is key, completely lifting means we will go back to partying like Covid19 was in town for a limited period . Folks, Covid19 is now at the community transmission stage and the last thing we want is to undo all the gains of the last three months. How fast and how far Covid spreads is purely in our hands as citizens . It is NOT in the hands of the authorities so personal responsibility and caution is key.

7. Worship houses be it a church, mosque or temple should continue to remain closed. Christians missed Easter. Muslims missed many Friday’s and entire Ramadhan and Eid. If we sacrificed all those key occasions we can wait a bit longer. Social distancing in religious places is hard to implement besides you can pray to your God from anywhere. Holy Makka and The Vatican both remain closed so our clergy pushing for reopening will have to wait for sometime.

8. Schools should remain closed but we may consider candidates to go back as we cautiously test the waters . Schools must start planning for social distancing and new protocols instead of over debating the date of reopening of schools.

9. Reopen the airports with strict clear protocols. Copy passenger handling from Dubai, Singapore and China on how they have done it. Slowly we start reopening the economy.

10.Consider lifting the lockdown of Old Town and Eastleigh. Continued lockdown negatively affects the immune system. There is even a bigger worry that anyone coming out of a lockdown could be susceptible to opportunistic Infections. To my folks in Eastleigh and Old Town I hope that was a learning curve. Let us listen to the experts and authorities .

Finally I appeal to all my fellow Kenyans, when the conditions are relaxed it does NOT mean it’s time to party and act reckless. You may have spared yourself and family Covid19 only to contract it while choosing to enjoy and having fun late hours at some place.

The choice is yours but keep in mind that viruses does not move, people do. Move in a responsible way to help us flatten the curve . H.E equally made it very clear. Relaxing the conditions is a matter of when and not if but are we ready ?

As always I choose to remain an optimist as we navigate this uncharted waters of Covid 19.

I believe we shall overcome .

Stay safe with your loved ones.

Let me know what your thoughts are. Let us engage.

Mohammed Hersi
Mombasa

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