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Home / Health & Science

How NOT to beat Covid

Health & ScienceBy Njonjo Kihuria | Sun,Apr 04 2021 07:00:00 UTC | 3 min read

 IEBC official at Gituri primary school checking the temperature of a voter. He also turned away those without facemasks. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

I board a matatu at Gitaru in Kikuyu in the ‘diseased’ Kiambu County, headed to the other ‘diseased’ county, Nairobi. Unsurprisingly, the conductor is wearing his mask around his neck like a scarf and he throws saliva in all directions as he calls for commuters at the top of his voice. Two youthful passengers in front of me ape him and freely take air in and out of their nostrils and sometime mouths.

There is the guy at the window seat in the rear, animatedly talking to his friend a seat away. Mask in hand, he narrates how he cheated curfew enforcers the previous night with so much excitement that one would think he has just won the jackpot.

At the Uthiru bus stop, as more unmasked passengers board the vehicle, I noticed a woman and three girls ranging in age from about 10 to 14 surrounding another girl seated on a stool. They are braiding her hair and none of them has a mask on.

At the Kangemi stage, a group of about 12 boda boda riders huddle together waiting for customers. None of them is wearing a mask. More than half of the travellers waiting for transport to town are also not wearing masks.

Covid 19 Time Series


It’s around noon and just before the Westlands stage, I notice construction workers bunched together eating their lunch. Well, I know people cannot eat with their mouths gagged, and forget the dust blowing around their food, but must they sit close together?

As we enter the central business district, there are these groups of young men sitting on the pavement waiting to hail prospective motorists with car trouble at the entry of Kirinyaga Road. None is wearing a mask. Across the street, five traffic police officers chat away oblivious of the young men and the fact that they are breaking the Covid rules.

Opposite Khoja Mosque and into River Road and Tom Mboya Street up to and beyond the Fire Station, the sidewalks are jam-packed with hawkers and buyers. Nobody is saying they should not sell their wares for we cannot stop the economy the way we have stopped reggae, but isn’t there a way of ensuring people do not crowd together that much?

On the way back, I board a Kikuyu-bound matatu and the drained commuters remove their masks and breathe long sighs of relief. Here in the matatu, unlike on the streets they reckon, there are no police officers to enforce the Covid rules. But where are you safer? In the open street or in the confinement of a matatu?

One of the reasons the president issued Covid-19 restriction measures, including the zoning of ‘diseased’ areas, is because many people had stopped observing the Covid protocols that include social distancing, wearing of masks and washing of hands and sanitising. Many had gone back to eating with dirty hands, masks had become a filthy decoration on the chins, and overcrowding in matatus had become the norm.

For many, Covid was no longer with us. And then the third wave hit. It has come down on us with a vengeance, leaving in its wake dead Kenyans-many known to us-and scores hospitalised, many in critical condition.

We have been told that the intensive care units are full and many of our countrymen are on oxygen. So dire is the situation that the Ministry of Health is calling on anybody ‘hoarding’ gas cylinders to surrender them.

Yet some of us continue to act as if Covid is non-existent and if it were there, it’s a virus that can only infects others. Unless we change, this don’t-care attitude will be the death of us.

To avoid a catastrophe, we must take personal responsibility in shielding ourselves and our fellow citizens against this disease. The police must also enforce the Covid regulations without resorting to violence.  

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