It is likely that by now many people have had the ‘Covid-19 scare’.
You know, the split-second (maybe longer), when you are almost 100 per cent convinced that you have contracted the disease – you have all the symptoms and every google search returns a ‘positive’ verdict.
If you have not, you do not want to. It is a scary moment of uncertainty and anxiety, made worse by the increasing messages of lack of Intensive Care Unit beds in both private and public hospitals.
More than ever before, the fight against Covid-19 is becoming an individual responsibility.
The figures in the daily updates by the Ministry of Health are no longer mere statistics, but rather, real people we work, live and relate with. If we have not had an encounter with the disease, we most certainly know someone who has.
My recent scare taught me a few lessons on my personal approach to managing the pandemic.
I thought of the reasons we should be a little more ‘selfish’ in the way we protect our loved ones and ourselves. The first lesson is that, when push comes to shove, you will be alone. You will need to be alone.
Your family and friends will offer every support they can, but the real fight for your life will be on you.
You will need to isolate yourself from people you love and face the physical and emotional effects of the isolation in isolation!
It is a very personal fight; let nobody lie to you.
Therefore, the next time you find yourself amongst family and friends who do not want to observe the set health guidelines, speak up because while you may contract the disease during a happy house party in the company of family and friends, your fight against its ravaging effects will be a lonely, physically and emotionally isolating journey.
Second, it is a well-known fact that Kenyans don't like regular health check-ups. We are known to embrace self-medication for everything from headaches, to toothaches to erectile dysfunction.
Unless a medical problem manifests itself and does so in a manner we consider ‘serious’, or there is sufficient cause for alarm, we keep off hospitals.
Truth is, many Kenyans do not like to go to hospital ‘for no reason at all’ mostly because they lack the financial muscle to do so.
Regular health check-ups mean regular spending of money that is barely enough even for basic needs.
It is possible that many of us are walking around with underlying conditions we know nothing about, simply because the conditions do not present any physical pain yet.
What this means is that, you do not know how your body will cope with a Covid-19 exposure and you do not want to test it out either.
While for some people the disease is only mild, even asymptomatic, for others it is a matter of life and death, literally.
Every body’s reaction to the disease is quite unique. It also means that the possibility of contracting the disease from ‘healthy-looking' family and friends is high.
Third, the cost of managing the disease is too high for many ordinary citizens. According to a 2020 policy brief by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the daily cost of managing a Covid-19 patient in a health facility ranges from Sh21,359 for asymptomatic patients to Sh51,684 for the critically ill. It is true that the disease does not discriminate.
It has affected everyone, bourgeoisies and proletariats alike. The difference, however, is that while the wealthy may have comprehensive medical covers and the economic wherewithal to foot the ensuing medical bills, the financial burden of managing the disease is likely to leave many a poor family even more destitute.
Whether managed at home or in a health facility, the emotional and financial cost remains out of reach for many.
My point is, it is important to take every precautionary measure to protect yourself with little regard for how people around you behave.
Do not hesitate to walk out of a meeting where people are unwilling to keep social distance and properly wear a proper mask.
Do not feel ashamed to request your local supermarket attendant to sanitise and properly wear their mask as they serve you and others. Each of us has the responsibility to selfishly guard our health, other people’s perceptions notwithstanding.
-Dr Kalangi is a is communication lecturer and trainer, Kenyatta University