LIFE AND DEATH

Apathy towards Covid-19 prevention perplexing

In Summary
  • It will be important to change this behaviour and revert to the levels of caution that many people practised during the first half of 2020
  • Perhaps it is time that we all became each other’s keepers
A rider wears a mask.
A rider wears a mask.
Image: DANIEL OGENDO

When Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus said “prevention is better than cure”, there must have been a public health crisis like the one we face today in the form of Covid-19. Similarly, many communities in Kenya have at least a saying that can loosely be translated as, “God helps those who help themselves”.

With Covid-19 raging and causing so much illness and death, it has never been more important to reflect upon the implication of this age-old truism than now. A message that recently trended on WhatsApp appropriately reinforces the same adage: “Then it was numbers and percentages, now it is people we know and love.”

We must all be alive to the reality that protecting ourselves against infection is still a matter of life and death. The other fact is that doing so is the responsibility of each one of us and not the government's, as many people think. The government can help by speeding up the vaccination programme and imposing restrictions, but it can never police everyone. Ultimately, your safety and health are your responsibility.

Protecting our lives and those of our loved ones from Covid-19 is not only cheap and easy to do, but it is the only way to be sure that we shall live long enough to see life get back to normalcy, if we will ever get back there. Covid-19 vaccines can help but they will not be available to everyone in the foreseeable future.

How much does it cost to wear a reusable mask when out in public, keep 1.5 metres from the next person or sanitise your hands when you cannot wash them with soap and running water? Even better, handwashing and hand-sanitisation booths have been installed in many public and private spaces and none is required to pay to use them. Why, then, are we not doing this frequently and consistently?

We carry masks to avoid being arrested and not to keep ourselves alive. So, we wear them around our chins, defeating the whole purpose. We demand relaxation of movement restrictions knowing full well that lockdowns and curfews are meant to save our lives.

Governors and health executives from most of the 47 counties have told us that the country is fast running out of ICU and HDU beds. Numbers shown daily in the media keep telling us that things are getting worse. New and deadlier variants of the coronavirus are spreading and killing people faster than the first virus that came from Wuhan, China.

Despite these dangers, many have stopped wearing masks properly and public transport operators no longer enforce recommended protocols. Those who live in rural areas still seem to believe that Covid-19 is a disease of people from Nairobi and other big urban centres.

We carry masks to avoid being arrested and not to keep ourselves alive. So, we wear them around our chins, defeating the whole purpose. We demand relaxation of movement restrictions knowing full well that lockdowns and curfews are meant to save our lives.

The argument by some that low levels of education is the reason for this indifference does not hold water in a country where 82 per cent of those who enrol in primary school complete their education. Most Kenyans are educated enough to understand set prevention protocols. Why, then are we so indifferent?

It will be important to change this behaviour and revert to the levels of caution that many people practised during the first half of 2020. Perhaps it is time that we all became each other’s keepers. Those who stick to the recommended Covid-19 safety protocols could take it upon themselves to encourage their neighbours to do the same.

Religious and community leaders can also play a part by encouraging congregations and communities to adhere to the set guidelines. Measures could be put in place to provide reusable masks to those who may not afford disposable ones. If all of us play our part, the battle against the pandemic will be won within a short time.

Programmes and partnerships manager at Doctors for Healthy Living [email protected]