When Kenya reported the first coronavirus case on March 13, there was trepidation and utmost care among majority of Kenyans. From washing hands frequently, sanitising, maintaining physical distance and heeding calls from public health experts for vigilance, Kenyans took it upon themselves to keep the virus at bay. There were messages all over on the contagion and why it was important to protect oneself.
Reports from other countries on the deadly virus made Kenyans diligently take all precautions. All these have, however, changed and Kenyans are beginning to behave as if there has never been any case of coronavirus in the country. Save for major cities, safeguards like wearing of masks seem to have been dropped.
In rural areas where healthcare coverage is still a major challenge, the use of masks is not the norm. In a nutshell, Kenyans have lowered their guard and this is a dangerous trend which started with politicians but has steadily spread to the populace.
While the country has been reporting decreased numbers of Covid-19 cases, it seems Kenyans have interpreted this to mean total safety and a quick road back to normalcy.
Far from it, Kenya still faces real danger. Perhaps there is need to learn from other countries which have witnessed resurgence of cases due to hasty re-opening. Some of them which had opened are now mulling over imposing restrictions once again.
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Such an occurrence in Kenya would lead to undesirable results. First of all, since coronavirus struck, it has mainly been concentrated in the urban areas; this could have been partly due to the restrictions that have slowed human interactions.
With the lifting of some of these restrictions, there has been unfettered travel between the urban areas and the countryside.
Along with this, some cultures, like overcrowded passenger service vehicles as well as social gatherings devoid of rules, are slowly creeping back. If not checked, these could take us back to where we started.
But this time round, rural dwellings could be the hardest hit. With a fledgling healthcare system, that is at best ill-prepared, the dangers are real and hang over the country like a dark cloud.
The reality is that law enforcement officers cannot be everywhere to ensure each person follows the law and the onus of staying safe is upon Kenyans themselves.
Politicians seem to have thrown all caution to the wind — there is a catch to this behaviour and it is definitely in the comfort they draw from the fact that unlike ordinary Kenyans, they can afford better healthcare, a reality millions of Kenyans are yet to grasp.
While it is imperative that the country re-opens and life gets back to normal, it must be construed to mean the new normal. Normalcy cannot be achieved in a rush but through deliberate care among Kenyans.
Without this, Kenyans risk facing another wave which can only put the country in a deeper hole even before getting its footing from the past six months of Covid-19.
It is clear that Kenyans want to move on but there is no point in rushing forward if such a move can only take us back. Let Kenyans remember that the worst could be behind us, but no evidence is yet to show that we cannot get back there. The Ministry of Health protocols are still valid and need serious attention if the country wants to emerge from this victorious.
So far, we have lost one too many people to coronavirus and any more death is a further blow that should and can be avoided at all costs.
If Kenyans could endure six months to be safe, then it cannot hurt to move cautiously through the next few months to be sure that safety from another spike is guaranteed.
Let us always remind ourselves that no matter how long it takes, we shall emerge strong from the fangs of this pandemic that almost paralysed the entire world. It is important to move forward, but let us do so with lots of caution and care.