• While measures put in place by national and county governments are commendable, more still needs to be done to prepare the country to deal with the disease.
• Trends in countries across the world indicate that following the announcement of the first case, more cases are soon reported in the following one to two weeks
Article 43 (1) (a) of the Constitution provides that “Every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care”.
A right is an entitlement. Therefore, every Kenyan is entitled to receive medical attention of the highest standard and the State has the duty to ensure all Kenyans have access to adequate health services irrespective of their social, political or economic status.
In the last few months, Kenyans have heard about the coronavirus disease of 2019 otherwise shortly referred to as Covid-19. We saw how the disease spread across the world, infecting so far over 100,000 people and causing over 6,000 deaths worldwide.
All along, we have been praying and wishing that it never gets to Africa and Kenya specifically but through the transport sector, specifically airports, Covid-19 was officially tested and confirmed to have reached Kenya on March 12.
According to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, a 27-year-old Kenyan woman who travelled to Kenya from the US via London and arrived on March 5 was the first one to be diagnosed with the virus. Two days later, the President announced two more cases. He further announced mitigation measures, which included the closure of all educational institutions, civil servants to work remotely from the safety of their homes and encouraged Kenyans to restrict their movements and practice social distancing. Kagwe announced three more on Wednesday.
What followed is counties across the country setting up emergency health services to combat Covid-19. In Mombasa, for example, Governor Hassan Joho unveiled an isolation centre at the Coast General Hospital with 19 beds to cater for any potential cases. All public beaches and entertainment joints were also ordered closed. In Bungoma, the county announced measures to support immediate burials. In Tharaka Nithi, the county government set up quarantine centres in Chogoria, Marima and Chuka referral hospitals.
However, while the above measures put in place by national and county governments are commendable, more still needs to be done to prepare the country to deal with the disease. Trends in countries across the world indicate that following the announcement of the first case, more cases are soon reported in the following one to two weeks. While it is the hope of Kenyans all over that the spread will not be wide, it is always best to plan for the worst as we hope for the best. Governments should, therefore, up their game and double their efforts.
The national government should immediately announce minimum standards to be met by all counties. This should include more quarantine and isolation centres with at least 50-bed occupancy to cater for emerging cases. In China, a completely new hospital was put up in just a few days to deal with Covid-19 and it was instrumental in containing the disease. While the same may not be possible in Kenya, we should at least take measures to convert some of our health centres in the counties to cater for Covid-19.
As we prepare health centres to receive patients, it is more important to educate the masses on how best to avoid the disease. It is unfortunate that so far, many Kenyans do not take the coronavirus threat seriously and are casually going about their business as usual. Efforts must be made to inform the public that while indeed we understand the need to put food on the table at the end of the day, it is better to consider that if we do not take caution now, we may not be there in the coming days to even look for that food.
Kenya has overcome many threats in the past, which have made us stronger. Natural calamities, terror attacks, and even other medical epidemics. Without a doubt, we will overcome Covid-19. However, we should not make it difficult for ourselves.
The national and county governments must better prepare our health facilities while citizens should practice social distancing and cleanliness in our homes and communities.
Covid-19 is real and we must all work together to conquer it.