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You are better off raising private resources to fight this virus

By Kamotho Waiganjo | August 8th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

The global Covid-19 case load has now passed 18 million infections.

It is important to clarify that this number represents only the cases confirmed from tests undertaken. For instance, the US, the country with the highest number of Covid-19 cases now standing at almost five million, has tested only 61 million of its 330 million citizens.

Kenya, with confirmed cases now totaling 23,000, has tested only a small portion of its 45 million citizens. In countries like Kenya where the testing is predominantly random, these numbers tell a worrying story; full testing could disclose vastly higher infections.

The positive story about Kenya and indeed the rest of Africa, which has just passed the 1 million confirmed cases mark despite a population of 1.2 billion, is that while the number of cases continues to soar, Covid-19-related deaths are still below the numbers exhibited in the rest of the world, particularly Europe and America.

With Covid-19 having been with us now for six months, there are lessons that we can learn that may enable us to survive this pandemic. Lesson number one is that most of science is as lost as we are on many issues relating to the coronavirus.

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The honest scientists’ consistent answer on critical questions about the virus is they do not know. For example, there is no authoritative answer to simple questions like re-infection possibility. Or whether hydroxychroloquine is a cure. 

Even the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has been back and forth on Kenya’s projected infections. No scientist can say for sure how long the virus stays in the air and whether one or three metres is the safe distance.

Consequently, while it is important to listen and abide by the protocols issued by heath authorities, surviving this scourge will require adding sufficient doses of common sense to the science. The primary lesson is to always understand the why, and then tweak the protocols accordingly.

Lesson two: Covid-19 is not going away for a while and has no easy fixes. Even the much-talked about vaccine is, at the most optimistic, 18 months away from Africa, meaning that the virus could long have decimated the continent.

Flowing from the latter is lesson three; while the protocols on washing hands, keeping safe distance and staying at home will reduce the rate at which the infection spreads, it is almost impossible to completely control an air borne virus which appears to be mutating to address the interventions being instituted against it. Consequently, we must live with the reality that many, if not all of us, will get the virus.

Delaying the spread of the virus in the first world made a lot of sense because then they were able to make the huge investments needed in additional Personal Protective Equipment, ICU bed spaces and financial assistance to those prejudicialy impacted by the virus.

In this part of the world, paucity of resources and our love of privatising public resources has meant that despite the time lag, we are way below capacity from managing the virus curatively and we will not catch up.

Fortunately, our relatively younger population and other advantages which have so far not been completely understood means we can avoid depending on purely medical interventions.

Which flows to lesson four; looking at the numbers, and with the immense anecdotal evidence that points to more widespread occurrence of the virus, it makes sense to prepare, not for escaping the scourge but for dealing with it when it comes.

All indications are that surviving the virus comes easier to those whose immunity is not compromised. Recognising that we will be exposed to the virus and boosting our immunity should be a priority for the entire population. We need to re-jig our diets to prepare for the eventual attack. Fortunately, this is easily done without significant impact on cost for most of the population.

Final lesson, the impact of the slowed down economy may end up killing more people than the virus. Government’s urgent responsibility is to get us back to work. We can then raise the private resources that will enable us fight this enemy which is going nowhere. Over to you.

- The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.  

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