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COMMUNAL TRANSMISSIONS

Kenyans still lack discipline needed to live with Covid-19

We are obsessed with when freedom will come rather than accepting the situation

In Summary

• There was a furore in the days leading to June 6 over the anticipated ‘freedom’; raising concerns over our mental preparedness. 

• Unlike, say with HIV, one's regular social behaviour affects the health of others in terms of coronavirus, hence the stress on wearing a mask, washing hands. 

Youth converge without observing social distance in Kisumu Ndogo.
COVID-19 IN SLUMS: Youth converge without observing social distance in Kisumu Ndogo.
Image: CHARLES MGHENYI

Shortly after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the extension of dusk-to-dawn curfew from the previous 7pm – 5am to 9pm – 4 am, Kenyans took to social media to express their disappointment.

There was a furore in the days leading to June 6 over the anticipated ‘freedom’; raising concerns over our mental preparedness as we seek to walk into the unknown. In the United States, this level of excitement led to a surge in cases in some states upon reopening; folks went in for merriment with reckless disregard of WHO health guidelines on staying safe from Covid-19. 

In the first days of the coronavirus pandemic, when the first case was confirmed in the country, there was widespread apprehension. People went on panic shopping, others travelled upcountry, en masse. The majority stayed at home. Even the boisterous Nairobi traffic was beaten down.

Fear of catching the deadly disease eclipsed reported cases. Almost three months later, the reverse is true. Fear has receded, to the qualm of medical experts.

The nature of this virus presents a uniquely difficult challenge in containing its spread. Living with HIV, for example, has been fairly easy not only because of the availability of ARV drugs but also because one can easily give the virus a slip by, say, abstaining from sex.

One’s sexual behaviour doesn’t have a direct effect on the people around them. But with coronavirus, it’s different. One’s social behaviour, their personal hygiene and whether they’re wearing a mask or not have a direct effect on the person next to them; at home, workplace or in the streets. It means beating this virus is more of collective duty.

Worryingly, our behaviour discipline isn’t reassuring; lifting movement restrictions would thus be reckless. We’re obsessed, understandably, with when ‘freedom’ will come rather than accepting that life has changed and we must change with it.

Consequently, to achieve behaviour, the government must change its style of communication. Mechanical language is ineffective because it encourages the use of violence. The brutal truth is that we still lack the requisite discipline to live with the virus.

Energies should be channelled towards cultivating discipline – wearing a mask, availing oneself for testing whenever the opportunity is available, washing hands and practising social distancing. 

Journalism student, MMUK