BY PROF DR HALIMU SHAURI
(Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences; Pwani University)
The COVID-19 spread story started in Nairobi and Kilifi when the deputy governor (Kilifi DG) issue followed, then Mombasa then Kwale County.
From here the story of corona infections is now told in many counties in the republic. In fact, in some counties it has become a household narrative o even ordeal for those already infected and affected.
Indeed, we have in our midst those infected and affected. Quite a number of us have started accepting coronavirus is real by contacting it, or knowing a friend who has had it or family which has lost a loved one.
The manner in which COVID-19 has been stigmatized has made it popular knowledge fast than its predecessors – HIV/AIDS and Ebola.
I must commend the COVID-19 national command centre led CS Mutahi Kagwe. They have done a wonderful job sensitizing Kenyans on COVID-19 and what to do to avoid being infected.
The hard, Mr Kagwe and his soft-spoken CAS Mercy Mwangangi approaches have done the magic to diffuse COVID-19 information deep down rural villages.
The gender balance has synergized the team so well. I was in a very remote village yesterday in Kilifi County and I was surprised with what people know about COVID-19 and on what to do to protect themselves and others. Amazing!
However, despite this knowledge, many people, especially the youth still think this is a joke. I want to say that this is a serious virus with sure consequences to family income and stability. We must all rise to do our part. Please note that:
“COVID-19 will only be over when all of us will join hands, comply with the World Health Organization guidelines and be each other’s keeper”
MOMBASA AND NAIROBI
Allow me to mention our major cities Mombasa and Nairobi – the cities that are leading in COVID-19 spread.
Focus and attention are cast more on the two with ongoing mass testing in Nairobi and currently in Mombasa.
More efforts are needed by probably locking down Nairobi and Mombasa for a while. The more we procrastinate, the bigger the problem becomes.
I am particularly concerned with Mombasa as the epicenter. Why? You are wondering why am I isolating Mombasa!
This is because, the Coast, headed by Mombasa is more social. Life here has been more caring for neighbors and strangers unlike in Nairobi where capitalism had already entrenched social distance way before the advent of COVID-19.
People could only mingle in social spaces set aside for such purposes such as Uhuru Park, restaurants, joints, sporting fields, etc.
In Mombasa, there is strong community life. Some mix of urbanism and ruralism. This mix allows for breaking the social distance so easily and this has been the norm, “Mombasa Raha”, remember!
Now, Mombasa being the epicenter of COVID-19 infections in the Coast, there are many reasons to worry for the border counties of Kwale and Kilifi.
This is majorly with regard to migration. Kilifi has remained stable with ten cases and Kwale very stable with only one publicized case.
But is this the true position? In as much as it is good to know that COVID-19 is arrested from spreading in these counties but the news maybe too good to be true scientifically.
I have heard comedy stories that when Kilifi and Kwale people woke up in the middle of the night to pertake sugarless black tea, then their infection rates stabilized and will not increase.
I have also heard about the mysterious hair strand in all Holy books of Islamic faith and one had to deep the hair strand in a glass of water and drink as a vaçine against COVID-19 infection.
Allow me to say you will hear many of these hogwash and unscientific stories. Remember HIV/AIDS and ‘Cira (curse) in Nyanza and what it did.
Remember “Babu” of Loliondo in Arusha Tanzania miracle HIV/AIDS cure! In my community they say, a sick desperate person can even pertake their own human waste if they are told it can cure their disease.
The stable 10 cases in Kilifi and one in Kwale County should not delude the residents and think they are immune from COVID-19. They need to continue complying fully with the guidelines and increase their measures.
If I had the power I would lockdown Kwale from Mombasa and Tanzania, and ensure strict measures are in place to control border movements with Tanzania, especially in Vanga and its environs.
I would be scared of the free movements from Likoni into Kwale and TZ into Lunga Lunga and Vanga. Kilifi has to ensure Mtwapa, Mazeras and Mariakani, including panya routes are policed.
Finally, I want to say that Kwale and Kilifi will only be clear of COVID-19 infection radar when mass testing is successfully done.
We maybe deluding ourselves that infection rates are low or stable but maybe dying slowly with COVID-19.
“The virus was detected by a scientific process and its science through testing that will return to us our clean bill of health by posting negative corona test results, securing our lost human rights and fundamental freedoms to COVID-19 mitigation”.
I would like to take the advice of CS Kagwe seriously that we should consider everyone has Corona and protect ourselves.
Allow me to say whether you are from Kwale or Kilifi, where numbers are low, consider yourself and those you interact with as being COVID-19 positive till we are all tested and certified negative.
I know this may take long but it the sure process as we await vaccine and drug development. Keep keeping safe and stay at home.