Beware! Covid-19 lockdown looms

A policeman turns away a woman at road block in Nairobi’s Eastleigh Estate during a lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in May.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The new rules that governed the transport industry went back to “normal” and today, the 14-seater is once again carrying that number or more, while buses, especially in outlying areas, are once more cramming their vehicles with passengers.
  • We wanted our liberties restored by the government then chose to ignore all warnings.

On Monday this week, I met a woman in a social setting who was sure Covid-19 was a tall tale told by the government to scare Kenyans. She also opined that it was a ploy by the country’s fat cats to get money from the World Bank and other donors so that they can get something to steal.

No number of remonstrations by her listeners would convince her that the pandemic is real and that a huge number of Kenyans are being infected daily and dying.

Two days later, the story had changed. As she tearfully told us, she had received a call informing her that her father had died of the disease that morning. She swore she would never again go out in public without a face mask.

That tragic anecdote serves to illustrate two things: that too many Kenyans are still sceptical about the pandemic despite overwhelming evidence that, indeed, the Grim Reaper is very much on the prowl, swinging his scythe like mad and harvesting people’s souls, and second, that until it touches us personally, tales of its real and potential devastation are so much hot air.

This is a very sad reality, which no government on earth has the power to prevent unless the people themselves change their behaviour. But judging from how things are going, this is forlorn hope.

It is amazing, for instance, that despite daily exhortations by government administrators, scientists and public health officials, some people still consider wearing face masks an intolerable imposition. Before that they had been grumbling that the government was taking too long to open bars and other fun joints.

Loudest noise

Those who made the loudest noise were not the owners of those businesses, who had a legitimate right to complain, but thirsty revellers who habitually seek comfort in a beer — or six.

For a few precious days early in the month, it appeared as though this country was through the worst that Covid-19 could deliver. In fact, for a time, it was said that the country had flattened the curve because the statistics were no longer as grim as they used to be. That is precisely when carelessness set in and precautionary measures were shunned.  And that was not just it.

The new rules that governed the transport industry went back to “normal” and today, the 14-seater is once again carrying that number or more, while buses, especially in outlying areas, are once more cramming their vehicles with passengers.

Is it any wonder that the infection rate has climbed back up to the high levels of the first few months? It looks like rather than talk of a second wave hitting us as is happening in many other countries, we are still in the first, and doing a miserable job of containing it.

If we had listened to what Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe told us, perhaps things would have been different. Instead some of us, especially on social media, went on overdrive in a campaign of vilification and invectives as though the man had brought corona to Kenya.

Maybe because of his stentorian tone, which makes him sound like a frustrated lecturer in a theatre full of dummies — and he has a lot to be frustrated about—we have never really taken him seriously.

On the brighter side, Mr Kagwe has provided ready fodder for the creators of funny memes, a good distraction from the humdrum.

These dire circumstances have not been very kind to a man who inherited a ministry which was, by all indications, a den of well-entrenched gangsters. He appears to be dedicated to his job in spite of all that, and he obviously wants to clean up the mess he found in “Mafya House,” but this infernal bug is not co-operating.

We never listened either to the people’s darling, Dr Mercy Mwangangi, when she told us to wash our hands frequently — or paid any heed to the other two gentlemen who often came on TV full of admonitions.

Our liberties restored

In other words we wanted our liberties restored by the government then chose to ignore all warnings. Now we are paying the price.

As many people feared, now that school is back, there is a clear danger of a sizeable number of the institutions turning into Covid-19 epicentres (God forbid) and then blaming it on Prof George Magoha for reopening the schools too early.

But in doing so, we should not forget that there was no way the children would have stayed at home forever; they are not getting any younger, only more unruly.

One would fervently hope that a second lockdown is not imminent. This country’s economy is in the worst shape it has ever been and another shock could kill it altogether.

Therefore, the onus is on us as individuals to observe all the rules meant to keep the virus at bay. On this one we are on our own, for we cannot really expect the government to save us from our own folly; it does not have the capacity to do so, but it can lock us down once more.

andrewngwiri@gmail.com

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