THE MAVERICK:Covid-19 is a Personal War, Take the Initiative as Personal

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As of today, the government was doing averagely well on handling the Covid-19 crisis. While that has been the case, Kenyans do not seem to have been adhering to measures that would minimize the risk of spreading the disease.

Quoting one of my friends on Facebook Captain Collins Wandera, Kenyans should understand in a crisis where it is a matter of life and death, survival is a private and personal project, the government is only an independent observer. It is Kenyans who have the highest stake in fighting this virus.

One would be tempted to think people who are flaunting the social distance rules, stay at home requests, and use of masks are the poor, but that is unfortunately not the case. It is the middle class that shops in malls that are flaunting all those rules. I have been to Thika Road Mall on a few occasions to pick up some essential items, and to my surprise, people did not seem to care what is going on. The same is happening in the public transport sector. The government is giving directions to assist in averting the crisis, but Kenyans have a personal responsibility to adhering to rules that would benefit them.

Last week the government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew across the country. To most people, this did not seem to make sense. But a keen observer will understand the best approach to preparing people psychologically before being tough on them, know where this is going.

The disguised message was that you should take your position and be ready for anything that may come up. If scenes from Monday evening when President Kenya announced travel restrictions is anything to go by, then most people did not get the encoded message that was being sent by a dusk to dawn curfew. Those who understood that the curfew was just to psychologically prepare them on what was coming found themselves in the right place. Those who did not understand it found themselves on the road, or with some unfinished people outside their current locations. That is not something worth celebrating.

This is similar to a combat mission where everyone has been sent to the frontline, and in such cases, survival is a personal project. You should not expect anyone to prioritize your survival when you have not prioritized it yourself.

Just like the Health Cabinet Secretary has consistently insisted, this disease is not a joke. It is business unusual, and that calls for not only extraordinary measures but also extraordinary sacrifice to defeat it. Survival being a private project, all individuals should take their roles in assisting the government in achieving the objectives. The tasks in this case are simple; stay at home unless providing essential services or going to seek the same, observe curfew hours, keep social distance, and more importantly, prepare for anything, including more stricter restrictions and even being a victim. It should not surprise you how you can be a victim. You can be walking around and come into contact with someone you do not even know, the next moment public health officials will be picking you to a quarantine zone. Since that is a reality to hundreds of people already, understanding it will assist you to avoid unnecessary outings and contacts with people.

Stricter restrictions are on the way, especially if the situation will not improve. That is one reason why you should prepare not to be caught off-guard, just like those affected by travel restrictions. Since the lockdown is next to impossible, the government can achieve significant milestones on imposing additional movement restrictions. If cases increases in one area of the city, it will be necessary to impose movement between estates; it is just similar to a restriction affecting Nairobi, but this time people will be allowed to move over a short distance. This is a reminder that those living in Kitengela should plan that it may be hard to move to Kasarani. Since some adjustments will also be impossible, just plan how to close your businesses, how not to go to job, and simply how to survive without movement over some distance from where you stay. Those with kids and individuals who need care, avoiding travelling for long distances should be a default mode now. Allowing people to move over short distances will still be effective, eliminating the need for stay at home orders for most places.

While we are battling this pandemic, I would also like to fault the government. With hotspots locked and movement restricted, counties with no cases should not remain under restrictions as stringent as those affected. The consequences of shutting down the economy will be dire and may be felt for a long time. If a county like Turkana or Garissa has no case so far, it is only important to restrict entry for people from affected counties, and allow those counties to continue engaging in economic activities. This can be implemented progressively, but any county confirming new cases will have to join others in stricter measures. The government must establish a balance between protecting vulnerable people and safeguarding their socioeconomic wellbeing. Both are critical.

In short, everyone should remember this is similar to a combat mission where everyone has been sent to the frontline, and in such cases, survival is a personal project. You should not expect anyone to prioritize your survival when you have not prioritized it yourself. Kenyans can do more to assist the government in addressing this crisis. Everyone has a personal duty towards the war.

 

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Nairobi

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