CURBING THE SPREAD

Personal responsibility key to curbing Covid-19 spread

Human behaviour is at the heart of many public policy challenges, including the fight against Covid-19

In Summary

• The latest wave in Covid-19 infections, is teaching us that we need an inclusive undertaking of ‘responsibilisation.’

• We can’t underestimate the power of individual responsibility in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

Malindi police officers make arrests during an operation on April 14, 2020
Malindi police officers make arrests during an operation on April 14, 2020
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

Covid-19 is now testing the human kind in ways no microbe has for a century. It has forced human being to think and think in novel ways on how to survive — as far as human health, and economically.

The pandemic gives us an opportunity to reflect, as Kenyans and the world, on the fact that there has been no war as big as the one we are currently fighting.

Early this month, the Ministry of Health reported a positivity rate of as high as 22 per cent, an alarming increase for public health officials and each of us.

The increase in positivity rates has upended the spirits of millions of Kenyans many of whom had resumed their business and daily routines.

During these testing times, however, caution is your best defence. Caution is indeed, the best arsenal in the fight against the pandemic. It may not be enough, but it can keep you and those around you, considerably safe.

The latest wave in Covid-19 infections, is teaching us that we need an inclusive undertaking of ‘responsibilisation.’ Responsibilisation,  governmental literature, refers to the process whereby subjects are rendered individually responsible for a task that previously would have been the duty of another—usually a state agency—or would not have been recognised as a responsibility at all.

We can’t underestimate the power of individual responsibility in reducing the spread of Covid-19. However, we need everyone onboard for it to work and work effectively.

Human behaviour is at the heart of many public policy challenges, including the fight against Covid-19. As part of infection control measures for the pandemic, the individuals have been encouraged to adopt  preventive measures such as hand washing, wearing masks, sanitising, social distancing and adopting behavioural changes such as avoiding crowds.

The decisions the government has made are important to curb the spread of the virus. Indeed, imposition of curfew, banning large events such as political rallies, making sure that good diagnostic facilities, public health information and vaccines are widely available have greatly helped curb the infections in the population. However, how individuals respond to the government advice on preventing the spread of Covid-19 is important, if not more important, than government action.

While evidence exists that these measures reduce disease transmission, people’s willingness to follow these measures is tenuous unknown. This pandemic is reminding us that our health is the most important, and our new social norms should reflect that.

With Covid -19 in our midst, some of the beliefs and values we have held so dear over the years are no longer tenable. The environment in which the norms we have lived by have changed; Covid-19-soaked environment requires new norms of behaviour and values if we have to survive.

Call it common sense or ‘self-leadership,’ but as citizens, we all have a personal and social responsibility to heed the government health advice and act responsibly. Personal responsibility is key in ensuring our communities remain vigilant and minimise exposure.

When we have people dying in our country as a result of this virus, we should all bear the responsibility to play a unique part in this collective battle against the virus. Wear a mask. Watch your distance from others. Wash your hands. Avoid large gatherings and ensure that we do not contract the virus.

Your first social responsibility is to yourself and to those who live with you. Be attentive to any signs of infection in you or anyone around you. If you feel sick, limit your walkabouts to your home. In this way, you won’t put anyone else at risk. If you don’t live alone, isolate yourself at home and get tested.

Letting our guard down can be dangerous but doing the basics around Covid-19 can be a life-saving service. Do these things so our children can stay in school, our loved ones stay safe, and our economy can continue to prosper.

Above all, maintaining good hygiene is an important barrier to many infectious diseases because it promotes better health and well-being. Facing the Covid-19, we must work together to stay healthy. To stay healthy and ensure a healthy lifestyle, to ensure food security and nutrition, to take care of our environment.

If we control this disease we can go out and live our lives, perhaps differently. So

let us wear face masks properly, follow physical distancing and hand hygiene and take the vaccine against Covid-19 when our time comes. We cannot get rid of coronavirus forever, but these are the key tools to contain the number of cases and the mortality rate.

Judy Sirima is the public communications officer, Pharmacy and Poisons Board