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We must change our mindsets to defeat coronavirus

By Sabina Chege | July 24th 2020

Despite infecting over 11,000 Kenyans, surprisingly, there is still a widespread denial of the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic. This has come from citizens as well as politicians.

Some have claimed that either the number of infected people is inflated or that the virus does not in actuality exist, but rather that it is the product of some convoluted conspiracy. States of denial such as these are not only ridiculous; they are dangerous considering how they undermine extensive government efforts to eradicate the virus once and for all.

In a recent event convened by the prestigious Atlantic Council, President Uhuru Kenyatta stated, “Coronavirus is mainly a health issue, and our key focus is ensuring that we keep our people safe.” Government has indeed been trying many things to keep people safe.

This has included ensuring a level of preparedness to face the virus, tackling it head-on through mass testing as well as economic stimulus measures.

All of these measures have been critical in ensuring that the number of citizens who recover from the pandemic exceeds those who have been infected. The government has managed to do so without significantly impinging on the lives of citizens, most recently avoiding the imposition of another heavily dreaded nationwide lockdown.

The government has prioritised the well-being of citizens by avoiding the draconian measures seen in other countries. The decision to do so was a brave one. This also places a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of citizens, who must make sure that despite our country opening up, they are abiding by the measures currently in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Despite vast efforts and resources invested by our president in attempting to ensure the quality of life while combating the virus, there are those who nevertheless question his integrity.

As mentioned, it is not only his integrity that is questioned, but the extent and even existence of the virus more generally. These conspiratorial approaches to the public health crisis facing our nation are often encouraged by politicians who cynically take advantage of peoples’ ignorance in order to score political points.

Others, who are survivors of the virus, have been publicly shamed and vilified as “co-conspirators” in the government’s efforts to fool the people. Another ridiculous claim which has been circulated, particularly on social media, is that Covid-19 is a disease to which only foreigners are prone and which locals need not worry about. This frame of mind both undermines efforts to ensure our country faces a smooth recovery and even worse, endangers us all.

This would not even be an issue worth discussing if it wasn’t an opinion which was prevalent among citizens. As Kenya Red Cross’ psychosocial response coordinator Dorothy Anjuri said, “We have people in the informal settlement thinking this disease is not for people in Kenya.”

People who don’t think they are at risk do not keep social distance, wear masks or maintain the required hygiene protocols. Considering the infectiousness of the pandemic, they not only put themselves at risk but also others. This includes particularly high-risk populations, such as our parents and grandparents as well as young children.

While the essence of politics in the debate, disagreement and dialogue, the magnitude of the public health crisis which we are now facing does not leave much room for this. The globally accepted measures put in place must be respected if we are to overcome this virus.

The obligation to take this threat seriously falls on every citizen, from Wanjiku, the private sector, to civil servants as well as Members of Parliament. Nobody is immune from the virus and therefore nobody is immune from the need to respect the current limitations.

As a famous adage goes, “Nothing unites humans like a common enemy”. And never have we faced a common enemy so deadly and so threatening to each and every one of us - socially, politically and economically.

So our collective behavioural change will count for so much. At the least, it should be geared towards triggering that unity and maintaining it. Disunity risks undoing all the good job done. Those societies that act in unison will see better days.

So, therefore, together, let’s change our frame of mind, stop wasting time challenging unquestionable facts and instead, focus our energy on coming out of this crisis stronger than ever and in unity.

-The writer is Murang’a County Woman Representative.

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