Last week I became a laughing stock for wearing a mask in the countryside. I was told corona was over and that wearing a mask “ni kujifanya mtu wa Nairobi” (acting such a Nairobian). On the streets in the same place, I was viewed with suspicion for wearing a mask.
As suddenly as it came, Kenyans seem to believe Covid-19 is gone. Never mind that headlines from other parts of the world are saying something different.
Beyond low case numbers from samples taken, Kenyans cite leaders who appear in public without wearing masks as evidence that Covid-19 has run its course. The low death rates and collapse in price of masks as demand falls are other indicators; they suggest, that Covid-19 is gone.
We would love to see Covid-19 end without reaching rural areas, just like break dance in our youth. But looking at data from elsewhere in the world, we may be declaring a Pyrrhic victory.
Truth be told, the fear and stigma associated with Covid-19 has subsided. The rich and affluent fear corona more than hustlers. The tough restrictions during funerals and other social gatherings like churches have been removed. Most businesses are open, you can can now fly and visit anywhere you want. Hustlers never closed their businesses. The remaining real evidence of Covid-19 presence is a curfew, they add.
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It seems Covid-19 started with a bang, but will end with a whimper. Some are already asking if the fear of Covid-19 was oversold. Maybe it is that fear that stopped the worst of Covid-19. Maybe biologically we are more resilient. We may never know the truth.
Already there are media reports that the effects of Covid-19 on the economy will not be as bad as expected.
Covid-19 may not be over, but the fear of it has subsided substantially. In Africa, specifically in Kenya, we were skeptical about the pandemic from day one. We love being skeptical on anything and everything; maybe this skepticism was an asset this time. It kept the economy going and flames of hope alive.
The paradox on why effects of Covid-19 were not as devastating in Africa as was expected, goes beyond a younger population to our skepticism, which I do not want to call anti-science. Will science one day vindicate us? Time will tell.