By opening up the country for travel and business, the president told the nation two things: that we have to grow up and that we have to be creative and careful. The reality is that Covid-19 in Africa is not Covid-19 in the West. Our economies are fragile and our ability to absorb economic shocks is very thin.
For example, many people who lost jobs this season had no savings or a secondary income. This destitution was the inevitable outcome for many. This situation was made worse by heartless landlords who simply decided to evict tenants who they knew had legitimate reasons for not paying rent.
I wonder why a landlord would chase away a tenant when they know there is no other tenant waiting on the wings. This economic reality requires us to innovate and create within the context of Covid-19. Some of us must come up with totally new businesses and others need to come up with new models for existing businesses. The task ahead is indeed odious for everyone. That said, we will also take responsibility for our personal health and that of others. If we continue to wear masks like teeth guards we will surely die. If we will not die, we will watch many others die because we acted as carriers of death and disease.
We have learnt that the police lack capacity and morality to enforce these laws. Their greed and business-minded approach to serving humanity has turned curfew and restricted movement into a cash cow. Their collective shame should be trumpeted until they understand that today they stand guilty not only for the death of those they brutalised but also for everyone who caught the disease because they let someone break curfew or they let someone carry the disease from an epicentre to a village that was otherwise at peace. This let-down means the job of policing society is largely left to us; the people.
The reality is we must consider ourselves as loaded weapons. The bullets are our bodily fluids and the firing mechanism is our breath. We must each consider ourselves Covid positive at all times and endeavour to protect society from ourselves.
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We must wear masks to protect each other. It isn’t just about catching the disease any more it is about spreading it! It is about knowing that everyone including yourself is a risk to others. Each time you don’t put on a mask, refuse to social distance or clean your hands, you must consider yourself a terrorist or a mass murderer. I recently lost a friend because someone who had Covid-19 decided that his cough was just common flu so spreading the disease was no big deal. My friend died 11 days later because a Kenyan decided not to seek medical isolation or quarantine when they knew they had Covid-19 like symptoms. In my books that fellow is a murderer.
Yes, just like spreading HIV knowingly is criminal so should be spreading Covid-19. We must understand that it is not just about the individual it is about society as a whole. Our individual roles in keeping everyone safe cannot be overstated.
Further, if today you run home to see your aging relatives because you have missed them, that visit may cause you to miss them for eternity 14 days after. Your actions and decisions have real life and death consequences.
We must also realise that governors matter in this fight in a very real way. Covid-19 is a localised treatment disease. There is no airlift to Nairobi for specialised treatment and there is no leaving Kenya to seek help elsewhere. Your local hospital and its state matters. That is where you will be treated no matter how wealthy you are.
If your governor has been sleeping on the job, if you fall sick you may sleep forever. Some governors have done well and put up 1,000 beds to prepare against Covid yet some have a paltry 9. All counties have received funds to be ready, if they aren’t that means you voted wrong and you need to correct that.
For once, Kenyans must demand that their governors actually do their jobs and realise health is a devolved function.
The devolution has real effects on whether your county will be a place for healing or a place for death. There is no two ways about it. If you can talk to your MCA, CEC or governor kindly ask them to keep you safe! For if you ignore them as you usually do, most likely Covid-19 won’t ignore you or your family and soon you will be looking to breath and there will be no oxygen tank or hospital bed.
Finally, we no longer have anyone to blame if we catch the disease. Just like sex without protection can lead to an HIV infection; so does it wearing a mask wrongly, not social distancing or not washing your hands regularly. There is no way the government can protect you from yourself or enforce all these laws. Life and death is literally in your hands... sanitise or lose the battle.
-Mr Bichachi is a communications consultant.