CORONAVIRUS

Effective communication key to flattening virus curve

Total lockdown will shorten time and minimise loss of human lives.

In Summary
  • Kenyans have been interrogating measures taken by the government to contain the spread of Covid-19 with schooled minds.
  • And the majority feel that relaxing containment measures for eatery places was a rushed decision, difficult and costly to implement.
A waiter cuts pieces of meat at a restaurant.
A waiter cuts pieces of meat at a restaurant.
Image: FILE

Containing the coronavirus pandemic has put Kenya and the rest of the world on the warpath. Coronavirus has no known cure and is a disruptive, invisible enemy that causes human, material, political and economic losses.

During wartime, people entrust their survival to the leaders and demand that leaders put their risk tolerance limit to zero. They also expect their leaders to make them feel that no risk involving loss of life is worth taking; and are vetting sources of contents of information to ensure credibility and that the contents are effectively communicated to give people hope for a better tomorrow.

Kenyans have been interrogating measures taken by the government to contain the spread of Covid-19 with schooled minds. And the majority feel that relaxing containment measures for eatery places was a rushed decision, difficult and costly to implement, and not in conformity with tested best practice to flatten coronavirus infection curve.

 

China, with the best practice measures, is yet to relax most of its containment measures three months down the line. The feeling may not be based on credible facts. But the decision to relax restrictive measures for eatery places is an opportunity to draw the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Covid-19 emergency response team. 

They owe Kenyans the responsibility of keeping them well informed about the measures they are taking to contain the spread of coronavirus and why. It is also a wake-up call for the team to make timely and right decisions that are pro-life and to be more accountable for their actions, resources put at their disposal and any disinformation going to the public.

The team must make Kenyans feel that the government is doing all that is possible to protect their physical and emotional health. Majority of Kenyans support the policies and measures Uhuru and team have put in place because mainly they make sense and are effectively communicated. They should resist fatigued decisions and selfish individual or sectorial influences by any means.

According to an opinion poll conducted by Infotrak between March 30 and April 2, an overwhelming majority of Kenyans feel that measures the government is taking are right; they are kept well informed and appreciate the need to comply. Despite this, Kenya continues to record an increase in the number of people infected and Covid-19 deaths.

Kenya is in its second month of expected six months of coronavirus containment restrictions and is far from being out of the woods. Most Kenyans support extension of the nationwide curfew and closure of borders of epicentre counties for a further 21 days. They are asking for more stringent measures that include a total lockdown, initially of coronavirus hotspot counties.

The lockdown would be used as a pilot scheme for rollover to other counties and is expected to give the desired results and faster. A lockdown would work better if the government has clear strategic objectives for enforcement and has a clear roadmap and performance indicators of what the people and the government are expected to do.

All countries that have successfully contained the spread of coronavirus have the following: a strong state, healthy institutions both within and outside the government and a political system to enforce compliance and accountability; healthy and disciplined communities that ensure people take actions to support each other; and strong political leadership willing and able to make tough decisions such as lockdown to achieve social objectives needed to resolve the wider sustainability out of crisis.

 

A lockdown is relevant to all political systems but it would seriously disrupt lives and cause human, material and economic losses. However, total lockdown will shorten time and minimise loss of human lives and should not be delayed. Sun Tze (776-471 BCE) in his book The Art of War tells us that “no one profits from a prolonged warfare”. Therefore the government should prepare Kenyans for a possible total lockdown as part of an exit strategy, at least in coronavirus epicentre counties.