Test more to better manage virus spread
By Megan Anyango
| July 7th 2020
As testing for Covid-19 increases in our country, so too is the number of those infected. Reports of Kenya surpassing 7000 positive case mark made headlines. What was not emphasised in the reports was the idea that the significant spike was not a product of the virus not being under control.
As a matter of fact, the converse is true. The rise in those identified as infected is a testament to health officials’ handling of the crisis and particularly the fact that the more carriers are identified early, the more on track our country could be for stemming the virus’s spread.
The fast spreading nature of Covid-19 has been extensively discussed by viral experts around the world. Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation (WHO) technical lead on the pandemic, has emphasised the ease with which it spreads on a number of occasions. Considering how contagious it is, it would be concerning if numbers were not rising.
Pandemics are not defeated overnight and a lack of new cases would not mean that we had magically beaten the pandemic in a mere number of months. Rather, it would be indicative of the failure of our health system to identify those who are asymptomatic and unaware of the risk they pose to others’ health.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has prioritised expansive testing measures for citizens across our country. This was started as soon as the pandemic struck our shores. Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe was tasked with ensuring as many Covid-19 tests as the capacity of our labs allow. In order to increase this, coordination with foreign counterparts, both from the public and private sectors, was stepped up. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of extra testing kits being made available.
International partnerships are indeed key to defeating the pandemic. Although almost every country has by this point been hit by the virus, the common interest has been overcoming this disease.
The close relationship our President has fostered with countries such as the United States, has led to the much-needed assistance being prioritised for countries defined as strategic partners. The elevation of our US-Kenya relationship from bilateral to strategic partners this year, in an agreement signed by Uhuru Kenyatta and President Donald Trump, was instrumental to the decision to significantly ramp up Covid-19 related cooperation between our governments.
The limited amount of tests available is an issue every nation fighting the global pandemic has been facing. The trick to containing Covid-19 though, is not only more tests but also by being able to strategically use the ones at our disposal.
President Uhuru guided health professionals and specifically the leading epidemiologists in our country to conduct an extensive health analysis and identify high risk areas to be prioritised. These were subsequently locked-down, with our security forces playing an important role in containing those who attempted to violate quarantine regulations.
The significant increase in testing capacity has been the primary contributor to the spike in numbers that we are currently witnessing. By identifying and quarantining these red zones, we will be able to better contain the virus’s spread, with the aim of eventually eradicating this threat once and for all.
However, we must not assume this to be an easy task. This can only be done by preventing contact between those residing in infected areas with citizens living in lower risk areas. Specifically, this will prevent contact with high risk members of the population, such as the sickly and elderly. Those who don’t abide by regulations put in place for the public’s well-being are not only breaking the law, they are putting at risk the health and even lives of our parents and grandparents.
Uhuru has assured us that those breaking quarantine will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is unfortunate that our government, despite it only having the peoples’ best interests at heart, needs to resort to threats in order to keep our people safe. Respecting government guidelines, alongside a continued rise in testing, are the two most important steps to getting our country out of the coronavirus crisis. Together, we will surely overcome.
Ms Anyango is a social commentator.
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