Covid-19 pandemic ‘Black Swan’ moment?

A resident gets tested for Covid-19 in Mombasa on August 13, 2020.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • State and individual response should be driven by potential contagion.
  • Decisions based solely on mortalities could be suicidal.

The media has done an exemplary job in informing and guiding the narrative and conversation on Covid-19. For its characterisation of the onset of Covid-19 as a ‘Black Swan’, the young now have extensive knowledge in health and hygiene compared to similar ages in the past.

Defined as a rare event with severe consequences, the concept of Black Swan is well explained in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

People now have a better knowledge on viruses. This includes their behaviour under varied climatic conditions, though this may have led to misguided belief in the Black’s genetic tolerance to Covid-19.

Physical distancing

New words have cropped up. ‘Curfew’ encompasses both restrictions on night movement and physical distancing, thanks to its corruption to ‘kaa few’ (avoid crowds). ‘Sanitisation’ now includes cleansing of a person suspected of malfeasance if he is on the right side of the political divide.

Numbers don’t lie, but their interpretation could be misleading. With your head in the oven and feet in the refrigerator, on average you are comfortable, so goes a popular saying.

For example, Kenya’s crude death rate (5.39 deaths per 1,000) translates to a daily fatality of about 750. Daily fatality is calculated as crude death rate multiplied by population then divided by 365 days (one year).

The reported Covid-19 deaths are comparatively low but they don’t factor mortalities from those reluctant to seek medical care (demand side) and insufficient response due to diversion of resources to the pandemic (supply side).

Wearing a mask

In days gone by, social distancing was driven by stigma, not contagion — witness Leviticus 13:46, in the Bible, where a leper was to “dwell away from the camp, alone”. State and individual response should be driven by potential contagion. Decisions based solely on mortalities could be suicidal.

John T. Mukui, Nairobi

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As days go by, the Covid-19 safety regulations are getting blatantly ignored with many people risking their lives and those of the few remaining adherents.

Unlike earlier on, wearing a mask, observing social distance and washing hands are becoming an oddity. Matatus, bodabodas and tuk-tuks carry excess passengers. There’s no social distancing in queues in supermarkets, malls, open-air markets and other gatherings. Many are “tired”of these inconveniencing rules.

The Health ministry ought to come up with new approaches to help the public to “live” with the coronavirus, including through media sensitisation.

Derek Liech, Mombasa