As the world battles the volatile coronavirus, Kenya should not count itself lucky just because the level of devastation is not as shocking compared to other nations. Rather, we should see this as an opportunity to rectify our ways.
The perfect case we should learn from that easily comes to mind is India. The virus situation has pushed the government and its citizens to the edge leaving them clutching at straws in attempts to abate the crisis.
This week the World Health Organisation said that the Asian country with a population of about 1.3 billion has been recording at least 300,000 cases daily. The total number of cases rose to more than 17.9 million and 200,000 deaths have been recorded since the first case in March 2020. A situation that could have been prevented has now morphed into a storm.
The second wave of the disease has seen the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led country face irreparable consequences. Failing to contain the situation has caused it international humiliation, with foreign missions frantically attempting to rehabilitate its image.
Secondly, the healthcare system is now overstretched as essential resources ebb away little by little. For example medical oxygen supplies have run out and drugs and hospital beds become limited.
Thirdly, families are giving their loved ones improper send-offs, resorting to makeshift pyres since crematoriums are packed to the brim. Avoidable deaths have caused families immeasurable pain.
More importantly, it will take the country a while to mend its mangled economy, owing to countries cancelling flights to India while others are urging their citizens to flee as soon as the situation eases.
As the world rallies around India offering diverse support, we must take stock of some of the deliberate actions and avoidable blunders by various quarters that brought the giant to its knees.
Prime Minister Modi is a quintessential of a failed leader. When the first case was reported last year he failed to take proper planning into account to forestall the havoc. Instead of shoring up healthcare resources, misplaced priorities reigned. Now it is dealing with a shortage of raw materials to produce vaccines, among other ills.
And instead of obeying cautionary measures introduced by health agencies such as the World Health Organisation to limit the spread of the virus, he blatantly disregarded them. The WHO advised that physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings are some of the steps of reducing the spread of the pandemic. But large crowds were witnessed at political gatherings organised by Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party as it gears for elections.
To make matters worse, party leaders boasted on social media of attracting huge crowds. And religious events, like the Kumbh festival, were not cancelled. These propagated the spread of the disease.
Lack of accountability and transparency among state officials equally contributed to the debacle. Leaders were in outright denial that commodities vital to emasculating the virus were either scant or unavailable.
The all-absorbing question we should mull over is what we can do differently to avert a similar spectacle. On April 28, the confirmed number of infection cases was 158,326 and the figure keeps increasing. About 2,700 have succumbed to the disease. Here are some of the issues we need to look into to guarantee ourselves a bright future.
The government needs to ramp up vaccination campaigns and see them through. The rollout launched last month by the Ministry of Health has encountered obstacles that are likely to derail its ambition of inoculating at least 16 million people by June next year. For example different factions are endorsing different vaccines leaving the public confused; the campaign has turned out to be an avenue of malfeasance, corruption and profiteering. Government officials responsible for this initiative should manage the matter and earn Kenyans trust by clearing doubts surrounding it.
For public participation to be fruitful actions taken by state machinery to fight the pandemic must be humanised. President Uhuru Kenyatta imposed a partial lockdown of the country, singling out five counties deemed hotspots. The act that involved reducing curfew hours, closing bars, banning social gatherings and ordering restaurants to deal in takeaways only elicited bitter reactions.
Kenyans said they will suffer greatly because their sources of income will be sharply reduced. They called for alternatives that can kill two birds with one stone — contain the transmission of the virus and ameliorate their financial situation.
Furthermore, reasonable investment in information and communications technology is a potent way of complementing existing efforts to subdue the pandemic. In India, a website was created where people can register for the vaccination programme.
However, it crashed as thousands tried to access it. We can also explore this route but ensure it is reliable. More people will have knowledge about the centres where vaccination is taking place and where to get coronavirus information.
Significantly, individual responsibility cannot be gainsaid. Personal efforts must be undertaken to rout this scourge. Adherence to Covid-19 protocols is being flouted to our detriment. People are being arrested in bars and churches despite the President suspending their operations until the state of affairs become promising.
Public Service Vehicles are still carrying passengers beyond the stipulated capacity. Non-observance of preventative plans erodes progress made towards achieving our targets.
This pandemic should jog us all to be active players. We should not sit on our palms pointing fingers at each other hoping facile actions will pull us out of the murk. We owe it to ourselves to stop the spread of coronavirus. Charity begins at home.