DELAY IS DANGEROUS

Lock down now, half measures can't stop virus

The government should stop taking chances and act before its too late.

In Summary

• The new measures mean that while no one is allowed to leave or go to the four counties, the people within those regions are still free to move around.

• While many Kenyans live below the poverty line and a total lockdown would affect them severely, continued delay may lead to the disease spreading to these families.

President Uhuru Kenyatta announces cessation of movement in Nairob Metropolitan Areai, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale at State House on April 6.
HALF MEASURES: President Uhuru Kenyatta announces cessation of movement in Nairob Metropolitan Areai, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale at State House on April 6.
Image: PSCU

On Monday President Uhuru Kenyatta announced to the nation additional measures stop the spread of coronavirus.

The number of infections has been increasing daily days and by Wednesday, there were 179 Covid-19 cases in the country.

The measures Uhuru announced seek to stop the further spread from the most affected hotspot counties of  Nairobi (Metropolitan Area), Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale.

 

Consequently, President Kenyatta announced the cessation of movement in and out of the affected counties, starting with Nairobi on Monday and the three other counties as from Wednesday.

The new measures mean that while no one is allowed to leave or go to the four counties, the people within those regions are still free to move around as long as they do so before curfew. This is not a lockdown, these are half measures.

Acknowledging the new measures seek to control the spread, it is clear the government doing all it can to avoid a total lockdown - not even in the affected counties.

The assumption one can make for avoiding a total lockdown is to avoid the South African scenario where the poor, who live from hand to mouth, will not be able to stay indoors as most survive on daily wages. They will thus need to go out daily to fend for their families. A total lockdown, as some argue, will lead to their starvation.

While it is true that many Kenyans live below the poverty line and a total lockdown would affect them severely, what is also true is that continuing to delay a shutdown may lead to the disease spreading to these families.

Should they then get infected, they will have to incur more costs to treat the sick, besides still feeding their families. Failure to act now will double the suffering for the poor should the spread get wide. This is a gamble it's best to avoid as a country.

Lessons are open for all to see. Countries that moved fast to contain the disease and were serious on enforcement, such as China and Germany, have now slowly begun to recover and return to normalcy.

They are finding their feet again and slowly getting back their old lives. On the flip side, countries that ignored serious enforcement such as Italy and the US are still battling the disease with hundreds dying every day. They are running out of medical resources to meet the demands caused by Covid-19.

Does Kenya want to take the same risk and employ half measures instead of enforcing a lockdown? Definitely not. If countries that are economically and medically far much superior to Kenya are unable to cope with the exigencies of Covid-19 and are losing lives in hundreds per day, one can imagine what would happen in Kenya if we were to find ourselves in the same situation.

As a country, we are ill-equipped economically and medically to deal with a widespread coronavirus situation.

The time for a total lockdown is now. The government should stop taking chances and act before its too late. A survey announced early in the week showed more than 60 per cent of Kenyans believe a lockdown is necessary.

Countries with higher poverty levels than Kenya such as Uganda have already gone the lockdown way to contain the disease. We cannot continue risking the lives of Kenyans. Further delays of implementing a total lockdown will cost Kenya more and we will have no one else to blame but ourselves.

The government has a duty to allow the daily wage earners to continue surviving and feeding their own. However, the government also has a duty to defend the same daily wage earners from contracting Covid-19 and still fend for themselves.

The choice is clear - lock down now.


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