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Pulse Editorial: Is the Government doing enough to stop the spread of Coronavirus?

The first case of Coronavirus was reported in the country on Friday last week

President Uhuru Kenyatta

The country was thrown into a panic mode last week when Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced the first case of Coronavirus in the country.

Kagwe stated that patient zero was a Kenyan lady who had flown in from Ohio, USA, via London to Nairobi. The cases have now risen to seven as of Friday March 20, 2020.

After announcing the first case, the urgency now shifted to stopping the spread and containing the virus with CS Kagwe outlining a few measures including banning public gatherings and important of all, washing hands with alcohol based sanitizers.

Public transports providers [are] directed to provide hand sanitizers for clients and regular cleaning for their vehicles to passengers," CS Kagwe directed the transport industry.


From Kagwe's announcement, it was very clear that alcohol based sanitizer would become one of the precious commodity that every Kenyan would seek.

President Uhuru Kenyatta went ahead and warned traders against taking advantage of coronavirus to increase prices of goods and services, which eventually fell on deaf ears.

However, was this practical enough just to warn traders? The Government should have taken control of the manufacture and distribution of the alcohol based sanitizers from the word go.

As expected, Kenyans flocked supermarkets in search of the commodity hours after the announcement and since then, some traders hiked prices like Cleanshelf which was put on the spot.


Apart from that, a stroll on the streets of Nairobi revealed that most Matatus only offered the sanitziers the first day of the directive and then stopped.

Matatu owners also began complaining about the hiking of prices for sanitizers which is now a rare commodity to come by in Nairobi even in the supermarkets.

Despite the Government efforts to try and protect consumers, we should have State officers visiting malls, retailers and supermarkets to see the situation as it is and explain to Kenyans why the commodity has become scarce ever since.

Do we have traders who are hoarding the commodity and what action is being taken? Not every Kenyan can afford hand sanitizers. The Government should provide soap and water in every county and major towns to the common mwananchi which is easily accessible.

It is commendable that the Government on Thursday announced that it would distribute alcohol-based sanitizers to Kenyans for free. This will cushion Kenyans against greedy traders taking advantage of the situation. I'm still waiting for this to take effect, otherwise, at the the moment I sing along to the tune with other Kenyans that kwa ground vitu ni different.


Social Distancing

The new buzz word which seems to have been lost on Kenyans and most government officials.

From the President, the Government spokesperson, CS Kagwe, a myriad of PSs and our Governors every one has reiterated how avoiding crowds, working from home, avoiding shaking hands, maintaining a 1 metre personal space radius at all times and limiting gatherings to less than 10 people will help us reduce spread of the virus.

These same government operatives will go ahead to call for press conferences where they themselves are tightly squeezed together on a podium so that they are all captured in one camera frame as being on the forefront of fighting "Coronavisus" (yes, we heard all the mispronunciations).

In one presser this week, over 30 journalists were all scrunched up, jostling and holding up their microphones to capture a PS's statement because no podium was provided.


After this incident, the Media Council of Kenya suddenly realized that journalists are not immune to the virus and released a statement "recommending" suspension of press conferences.

If Kenyans don't see this "social distancing" from the government itself, how is it going to finally click in their minds that crowding is more dangerous than it is economical?

Matatus are still carrying passengers in full capacity and in excess. Operators are definitely not cleaning the vehicles after every trip and sure as day passengers are not being offered soap and water or the glorious sanitizer as they board the vehicles.

I had expected better awareness campaigns that actually apply to the Kenyan context especially where it concerns public transportation but all we've gotten is the regurgitated WHO script.

Churches, except the most populous denomination - Catholics, have cancelled their Sunday services and mid-week meetings to encourage social distancing.


Night clubs have been ordered shut in some counties for up to 30 days yet in the most populous county in Kenya - Nairobi - owners have been politely asked to adhere to the operating hours allowed by the law.

In Murang'a county where pubs and bars have been ordered shut, Governor Mwangi Wa Iria pleasantly reported that residents have opted to go drinking in neighbouring counties.

With the kind of Social Distancing we are practicing in Kenya, one is only left to imagine the kind of disaster possible if there happens to be undetected cases within the population.

Additional writing by Miriam Mwende


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