Take extreme caution in reopening country

A notice at Better Health Restaurant in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County, on March 31, 2020. The restaurant was closed last week until further notice as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

It’s been almost two months since Kenya announced its first Covid-19 case. It’s also been more than a month since President Uhuru Kenyatta first announced cessation of movement for some counties and the nationwide night curfew.

These are some of the measures the government has taken to contain the coronavirus. Another is suspension of international flights.

These measures have been taken the world over. In Africa, especially, there have been partial and complete lockdowns that have helped contain the virus.

While the various containment measures have played a critical role in limiting the spread of the virus, some countries have been quick to rush and reopen to limit more losses to their economies.
Kenya is one of the countries that have tried to ease back to normality, with the reopening of restaurants.

The idea of reopening the country is very welcome. However, the government needs to make some serious considerations before doing so.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned of a deadly resurgence if countries emerging from coronavirus pandemic restrictions do not manage transitions "extremely carefully".

"The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully and in a phased approach," he said.

The remarks come at a time when the United Nations body has released a new report that says that without containment, the outbreak could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 in the continent in the first year.

The World Health Organization said 3.6 million to 5.5 million people could be hospitalised due to the coronavirus. From this figure, about 82,000 to 167,000 would be severe cases requiring oxygen, and 52,000 to 107,000 would be critical, needing breathing support.

While these numbers paint a very grim picture, it could be the reality should African nations fail to take extreme caution. It is no secret that the widespread transmission of the virus could severely overwhelm our health systems.

So, while Kenyans may be overwhelmed due to the partial lockdown, which has led to increased unemployment and a near-halt of economic activities, it is up to the government to take a well-calculated step to ensure that the reopening of the country will not be to the detriment of many.

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