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Covid-19 pandemic will only be defeated by proven public health measures, not lockdowns

OPINION
By Tony Sisule | April 10th 2021

A year after the first case of Covid-19 was recorded in Kenya, it marches on in its inexorable spread across the world. Virtually every significant aspect of life globally has been upended, and it is certain our lives, now and in posterity, shall never be the same.

My first international travel since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out made this new world vividly apparent. I travelled in March 2021 from Switzerland to Sierra Leone for some essential work, transiting through Belgium. Having been on the frontline in the Ebola response in Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2017, I knew the disruption to travel, trade and livelihoods that diseases of international concern cause. However, the onerous requirements and costs of travel in this pandemic are much more exacting.

Sparse passenger numbers meant there was plenty of room on the planes, as well as in airport lounges and waiting areas. Immigration, check-in, baggage, duty-free and the myriad services that facilitate travel were lightly manned, leaving me to wonder whether the millions of people laid off work from these sectors will ever get their jobs back. Whereas wealthy nations are providing unemployment benefits to their citizens who have lost jobs, developing countries like Kenya have virtually no unemployment social security for people out of work.

Serious thought must be applied to decide whether destroying so many businesses and lives through lockdowns really saves lives or leads to more deaths. All lives hold equal value, and coronavirus has devastated families of the about 2,000 people it has killed in the last one year in Kenya, and many more in other nations. It is apparent in wealthy as well as developing countries that lockdowns have not stopped the spread of Covid-19 and ensuing deaths.

Lockdowns have resulted in losses of millions of jobs. This has certainly caused deaths through malnutrition of children, depression, suicide and other indirect effects. It therefore behooves governments in Kenya to promote proven methods of slowing coronavirus spread, such as maintaining hygiene, testing, and protecting healthcare staff so they can treat those who fall ill. 

Sisule is an adviser at the Permanent Delegation of the Commonwealth to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. This article is his personal analysis, and not that of the organisation. 

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