LOCKDOWN

What Kenya can learn about lockdowns from other countries

African states' only hope is stop coronavirus spread at the earliest opportunity possible.

In Summary
  • Those that have recorded success in fighting this pandemic have followed religiously and set priority to testing, isolating and careful quarantining of those infected.
  • This has to be followed by a well-coordinated, clear and consistent communication to the public.
Traders at Wakulima Market on March 25, 2020
LOCKDOWN: Traders at Wakulima Market on March 25, 2020
Image: /MERCY MUMO

The novel coronavirus disease emerged from China and since then, the number of fatalities has risen to more than 10,000 and the number of infections to more than 250,000.

A simulation exercise conducted in the United States to test the countries’ preparedness in dealing with a pandemic projected that any pandemic similar to the 1918 Spanish flu would see fatalities stand at more than 560,000 people and infections rise to over 110million0 in the United States alone.

All indications show that the Covid-19 has taken this course and the number of deaths and infections is expected to surge in the coming days and weeks. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the inefficiencies of what is considered to be the world’s best health system. The dynamics have shifted drastically from China, with Europe becoming the new epicentre of the pandemic and Italy surpassing China in the number of deaths.

 

What does Covid-19 mean for Africa’s public healthcare Systems

The first case was reported in Kenya on March 12 and ever since, the number of known infections has risen to at least 16 Africa, in general, has reported over 572 infections and 12 deaths. The fact that only a few cases have been reported in Africa has puzzled scientists and has been linked closely to the idea that Africa has a young population as compared to places like Italy where the population is dominated by the elderly.

Others have argued that the few cases could have predisposed Africa's seclusion from the rest of the world in international trade, finance and commerce. Despite all those arguments, scientists across the globe note the number of cases and deaths in Africa is expected to increase at unprecedented levels, unless Kenya and other African countries emulate measures taken by countries like China and Singapore in halting the spread of this deadly virus.

One of the major reasons the virus has spread like wildfire in the United States and other places has been the utter neglect by the government to restrict movement and lack of seriousness from the citizens on taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The experience in the United States, Italy, Iran, Spain and other countries that have far superior healthcare systems has shown us that Kenya and other African countries might not be able to deal with big numbers of infection

States need to stand in solidarity with each other and pull resources together in a collective and concerted manner to fight it.

Therefore, the only hope that African states have is stop the spread at the earliest opportunity possible. The numbers being reported by the Ministry of Health to the World Health Organization are not certain. A study from China now shows that four out of five people who have been affected by the Covid-19 in China contracted the disease from a person who did not know they had the virus. This means we could be having more infections than those reported.

Lessons learnt for Kenya

The unprecedented spread of Covid-19 is testing our ability, character and faith. This will be a very hard-fought war, but as Fareed Zakaria puts it, governments can provide hope for the people but only if they Act wholly, decisively and intelligently.

 

Covid-19 is a product of globalisation as viruses do not recognise borders or oceans, therefore, the best chance that the world has, is not to have leaders who are preaching nationalism or trading blame. Rather, states need to stand in solidarity with each other and pull resources together in a collective and concerted manner to fight it. Internally, the Kenyan government needs to centralise the public healthcare systems to avoid contradicting policies from the county governments, in this way information will be concise and shared in a timely manner.

The countries that have recorded success in fighting this pandemic like south Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have followed religiously and set priority to Testing, Isolating and careful quarantining of those infected. The Kenyan Health ministry so far has proven to have capacity to do this with the available funding from both the government and the World Bank.

However, this has to be followed by a well-coordinated, clear and consistent communication to the public. At this time of crisis, we cannot afford to have county A giving different information from County B and the Ministry of Health. The absence of information opens room for misleading information and suspicion.

Should Covid-19 cases increase, then the Kenyan government should not shy away from instituting a lockdown for fear of violating basic human rights and civil liberties. When one person infected demands to be free to interact with other persons, they are risking the lives of those other people and disregarding their right to good health and life.

Finally, as noted above, four out of five people infected in China contracted the virus from a person who did not know that they had the virus. Therefore, the best way to prevent this pandemic from spreading is by acting and behaving as if everyone is infected. This calls for greater societal responsibility and solidarity and strict adherence to practices of self-isolation and social distancing.

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