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Put vulnerable groups at the heart of corona fight

By Michael Ndonye | July 24th 2020

We can hoard billions of Covid-19 stimulus cash, but fatalities of vulnerable Kenyans are uttering profanities. Since March, we’ve been trying to slay Covid-19 leviathan by rattling its tail, but its head was visible as early as January. 

Unfortunately, like many countries in the world, we bought into conspiracies that lulled us into a health crisis. As the cases are now, lockdown is a bird out of hand. The one golden chance we have is to save the vulnerable population from the pandemic. 

The vulnerable population is being ravaged by the disease, especially those with underlying conditions such as diabetes.

Any modelling, for now, should target ways of derailing Covid-19 fatalities among these citizens. Normalising negligence of mwananchi to fight their health battles against affordable healthcare for all is against the government’s Big Four agenda. 

As the government prepares to problematise the surge of infections, Covid-19 is claiming lives. Notably, the fifth national and county governments coordinating summit convened by President Uhuru Kenyatta, which was to happen today, will happen on Monday.

One of the summit objectives is to review the efficacy of the containment measures and the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions. 

If I remember well, we locked when there was only one case and opened when there were about 2,700 cases. The logic has not changed; we have to continue opening even now when we are approaching 15,000 cases because the smouldering wick of lockdown is already burnt. 

What we need now is a different way of remodelling our containment approaches. When we had a few manageable cases, we modelled for a few; now, with many cases, we should think like that. One thing we do not expect from the summit is to focus on the weakest links because the links are broken already. I think tightening restrictions, locking down again and extending curfews will yield very little in terms of impact. 

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Why do I say so? Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has been speaking his neck-veins out, urging Kenyans to observe the government’s rules to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

However, honourable citizens have been doing precisely the opposite. They are holding high profile political meetings and partying in night clubs with reckless abandon. 

They haven’t stood as paragons of emulation by other citizens. The latest cases of Kasipul MP Charles Ong’ondo and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja are off-putting. They’ve set good examples for citizens to flout containment measures for the novel coronavirus. 

Needless to mention the president’s tour in town amid the crisis, there have been meetings held in State House bringing together 47 counties and sometimes over 290 MPs for political purposes. I remember well, like many other Kenyans, that during the 2013 polls, the Jubilee government was premised on ‘digitalisation’ narrative. Why is the government not meeting remotely the way they are encouraging organisations to do? We are aware that most government institutions are recalling workers to workplaces instead of working remotely. How do we expect to fight Covid-19 with such unequally applied policies? 

The government should remember that opening up the economy wasn’t an option.

The economy was shutting; people had lost jobs and businesses were closing. Nairobi and Mombasa counties seemed like concentration camps. 

In his ‘opening up speech’, Uhuru reiterated that the pandemic was gaining traction and that opening up meant citizens take responsibility in the fight against Covid-19. CS Kagwe told us that there would be no transfer of patients to Nairobi County from other counties. 

Expected surge

He says citizens ‘harass their counties governments’ to put up preparedness infrastructure to handle the expected surge of Covid-19 cases.

Later, Kagwe urged medical practitioners to save their lives first before saving others. Were these signs of a government that is tired of people’s burdens? Are we not trading off the lives of the vulnerable category of Kenyans? 

Our plea is this, to decide; the experts working with the government should answer critical questions. They should determine first why diabetic citizens are succumbing so quickly to Covid-19. The medical researchers must work out their intelligence to find out models of focusing on the most vulnerable population and advice the government on how to save such lives. 

Initially, the Ministry of Health did not disclose demographic information of those who succumbed to Covid-19. This information should not be hoarded again! To protect the most vulnerable among our relatives, friends, and colleagues, we need to know more about susceptibilities. 

Any government should protect the lives of its citizens. We agreed with ‘security starts with me’ model, but we can’t do that with health crises like Covid-19.

Therefore, the convened summit should come up with multi-pronged approaches to contain the pandemic, and more importantly, moderate Covid-19 fatalities among the most vulnerable.

-The writer is a political economist

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