Less than half of Kenyans are wearing face masks, defying government directives aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
A survey conducted before the order on covering the mouth and nose while in public places indicated that only 42 per cent of the population was compliant.
Consumer Insight, a research firm, conducted the survey over the last four days of March, exploring various ways the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of ordinary households.
“With the exception of wearing masks, Kenyans are largely complying with the guidelines,” Ndirangu Maina, the managing director of the research firm said.
Kenyans are most compliant on washing of hands at 93 per cent, a factor that could be attributed to the exercise being cheap and often at someone else’s cost. A vast majority have also quit shaking hands, according to the findings, indicating that the traditional ways of greetings have starkly changed.
Other key findings from the survey indicate that a fifth of Kenyans do not have food supplies that could last them a week in the case of a lockdown.
In case of a lockdown, all movement would be restricted, suggesting that households would survive on their stocks of basic consumables.
Two-thirds of respondents earning below Sh20,000 a month said they would at the most make it through a week with their present supplies, the survey found.
This would be the group that the State might have to map out and provide for should a decision be made to impose a lockdown.
A majority (42 per cent) consisting of the middle income class whose monthly income is in the range of Sh30,000 up to Sh100,000 would however make it through between two and four weeks.
Poorer households are inadvertently the most exposed in the scenario of a lockdown, with other findings showing that incomes have been severely hit. The study found that self-employed Kenyans are bearing the brunt of the disruptions on incomes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
On the flipside, a significantly lower proportion (76 per cent) of those in employment in the ordinary sense had their income impacted since the outbreak was first reported.
An intermediate Consumer Insights’ report of the study released earlier in the week had indicated that incomes for four out of every five Kenyan households had shrunk.
With the growing likelihood of stiffer measures to mitigate the spread, a huge proportion of households could starve to death owing to the diminishing incomes, especially for those who earn a daily wage.
Almost every sector of the economy has taken a hit as the government puts in place measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
“Almost all self-employed Kenyans are earning less or no income,” the survey reported.
While the survey did not indicate which sectors were worst affected for the self-employed, it is easy to pick out operators of eateries as among the hardest-hit following the decision to ban gatherings.
In Nairobi, specifically, most of the restaurants including the informal ones have closed down and the remaining few, which are the high-end eateries, only doing takeaways.
Besides the directive to ensure social distancing, the uncertainty associated with the pandemic means consumers are unlikely to spend on non-critical services such as grooming which would mean less income for workers in beauty and cosmetic sectors.
Consumer Insight also found out that two out of three of the respondents had either cut back on spending on services or suspended them altogether, as part of the defensive response to the calamity which no one can predict how long it would be here.
Heath CS Mutahi Kagwe has already cautioned hairdressers that their work could play a big role spreading the virus.
Reduced movement has also meant that incomes for boda boda operators, who are often self-employed, are hurting.
Employers in various sectors have taken severe measures that have involved slashing their workers’ pay in an attempt to survive the pandemic.
Kenya Airways and several media houses, for instance, have announced pay cuts of up to 75 per cent for their workers.
The research was conducted before President Uhuru Kenyatta announced extreme directives banning movements in to and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale.
But there is the odd one per cent of the surveyed respondents who reported to have grown their incomes, perhaps out of exploiting the opportunities such as the manufacture and sale of hygiene products.
Masks and sanitisers are now huge business around the country as consumers try to protect themselves from catching the deadly virus, whose tally of infections had reached 184 with seven deaths and 22 recoveries by last evening.
There have also been incidents of panic-buying as consumers stock up on basic commodities, which are incidentally costlier now and which could also explain how the one per cent of the respondents might be making more money.
Disinfectants and medical spirits are the products that households are buying more of than ever before.
On perceptions on how the pandemic will evolve, a vast majority are pessimistic that the spread would be contained and the infections tally would plateau.
More men anticipate a worse outlook compared to women who were reported to be relatively optimistic with 36 per cent of them projecting that the cases would reduce.