Matiang’i: We will flatten the Covid-19 curve

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Photo credit: NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Minus mass testing, various countries have been unable to gauge by how much the out-of control virus has spread.
  • With no vaccine or medication to treat the disease, medical experts say that only collective action could stop the virus from overwhelming the health system.

At his Harambee House office, Covid-19 appears to be Fred Matiangi's waking nightmare. "I have the anxiety everyone faces," he tells us in an interview. "But we are making a contribution in ending the pandemic."

Two weeks ago, some two bloggers were arrested for alleging that Dr Matiang'i was sick. He was not. “I am fine, and I thank God,” he says with a religious tone.

As the rate of infections continue to rise, and as Kenyans expect to hit Covid-19 peak in September, he tells us that mass testing has been ruled out as a solution and with a reason.

"No country has done mass testing," he says.

As the Interior Cabinet Secretary and chair of the National Co-ordination Committee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Dr Matiang'i sits at the centre of the fight against the disease. But despite various challenges in the fight, Dr Matiang'i is upbeat that after September "we shall start to flatten the curve”.

This is his major challenge with the committee and how they help the country navigate through the crisis will determine his prowess and tenure at Harambee House.

Lack of resources

Minus mass testing, various countries have been unable to gauge by how much the out-of control virus has spread. The lack of resources and shrinking space in hospital wards is now contributing to more deaths as Kenya walks straight into the Covid-19 storm. With no vaccine or medication to treat the disease, medical experts say that only collective action could stop the virus from overwhelming the health system.

And with the country having limited budget, it now appears that the government is making hard choices on how to use the available cash.

"Experts are asking us, is mass testing the sensible way of using your resources?" says Dr Matiang'i. While it was hoped that a regional approach to tackling the pandemic would be adopted, that opportunity seems to have disappeared with neighbouring countries, especially Tanzania, disregarding the World Health Organisation protocols and declaring the country Covid-19-free.

Dr Matiang'i would rather not be drawn into that debate and curtly says: "Let everyone mind their own house."

Diplomatic spats

But he agrees that it would have been better if the situation was handled jointly by the region as proposed by Rwanda President Paul Kagame. "But we don't have that opportunity, now" he says.

Kenya and Tanzania have had diplomatic spats in recent months over Covid-19 as mistrust and fear opens the old wounds. Kenya suspects that Tanzania has not been transparent in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Internally, Kenyan officials have been accused of wanton wastage of resources put aside to fight the pandemic. This has led to threats by the healthcare workers to lay down tools demanding their delayed salaries in some counties.

But Dr Matiangi says he has "no evidence of dissatisfaction with our war on Covid-19”.

But on the questionable procurement, he says that there will be audits since President Kenyatta wants to see transparency and accountability of the funds.

Another tricky issue was the police behaviour during the lockdown and brutalisation of those who were caught outside the curfew hours.

"Officers make mistakes and if it is a mistake, I take responsibility," he says. But in the same vein, Dr Matiang'i says that, overall, the police did a good job and that IPOA (The Independent Police Oversight Authority) has only 70 cases of complaints against them.

"We have a responsible police force, and we take action when we find mistakes. But I must admit that we have had challenges," he says.

Last month, IPOA said that it had received more than 95 complaints of police misconduct and confirmed 15 deaths, many of which occurred while enforcing the curfew.

Anne Makori, IPOA chairperson said the 15 deaths and 31 incidents where victims sustained injuries had "directly been linked to actions of police officers during the curfew enforcement.”

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