BY PROF DR HALIMU SHAURI
(Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pwani University)
Kenya, like the rest of affected countries globally, is exhausting the preventive measures to combat the spread of the deadly virus, COVID-19.
If you have been following, we started with closing schools, colleges and universities. We were still not doing well and we enhanced our measures to include work place closures and partial closure by fixing 4 pm as the end of the working day.
Further, we have gone into a Curfew that runs from 5 am to 7 pm for Kenyans in none essential careers as far as mitigation of COVID-19 is concerned.
More precisely, the cases are not decreasing despite these measures. In any case, our graph is still steep and numbers are growing day by day and spreading. It is this spreading that we can do something about. What you are asking?
Kenya, through the Constitution 2010 was divided into 47 counties. While this was an administrative and development decision, it can today help Kenya deal with the spread of COVID-19. How?
I know you are about to lose your patience! The idea is possible though it may have some legal huddles.
However, laws are made by us humans to help us attain a better social life. What is the idea? I hear you burning inside! Relax.
This is how the counties can help us mitigate Corona from spreading effectively by first mapping the COVID-19 hotspot counties.
As at Now Nairobi and Kilifi have been leading, with Mombasa County following slowly but steadily.
My thoughts, which were sparked by colleagues in our conversation, their names withheld, are that after mapping the hotspot counties we implement a total shutdown or lock down of only these Corona hotspot counties.
We should not allow any movement in or out of these hotspot counties for like 21 days and enhance mass testing of the public in these counties, while still encouraging personal hygiene, self-quarantine and social distancing. This way we have many advantages.
First, reducing movement of citizens in the most at risky counties. Secondly, no transfer of the virus to the neighboring counties. Third, zeroing on support to only these hotspot counties, reducing our costs substantially.
A total lockdown of say five hotspot counties out of 47 unaffected will even save the economy as the unaffected counties can continue doing business. I am sure this zoning idea has not been applied in the West and may be a game changer for Kenya.
I urge the National Committee to think about this idea of mapping the hotspot counties and zone them for complete shutdown for 2-3 weeks.
This way, infection rates will only be localized and will be easy to manage. We should not shy away from this idea because Europe did not use it, because Kenya is unique and our devolved policy gives us an advantage.
This is possible when we involve the national and county security to man or woman their borders.
The same way, CS Kagwe has encouraged Nairobi residents not to travel upcountry, is the same way all governors will strengthen this voice by asking their people to stay put for the shutdown period.
I know some people will raise issues of violations of freedom of association and movement but we are going to a complete shutdown as a country if we Kenyans continue to resist behavior change anyway. Why not shutdown only COVID-19 hotspot counties and leave the rest to operate.
This is the most sensible thing to do medically, socially and economically. We shut down our international travels, in and outside the country.
We went ahead and shutdown our borders, to cushion our country. We can go further to shutdown COVID-19 hotspot counties to save Kenyans and ensure our resources are not overstretched by letting people transfer the virus to all counties. This will thinly multiply our mitigation efforts, making them ineffective.