Should Kenyans buy the COVID-19 ‘sale’?

Influenza and pneumonia kill 16X more Kenyans than Corona. ‘Dehydrated’ slum areas, are choking with school-going children, face masks are being used as chin guards, and still… nothing.

Fellow Kenyans, were we sold a bill of goods? This is the question we are asking. Were we conned about COVID-19? Or, are we Divinely protected as Tanzanian President Pombe Magufuli has successfully convinced 60 million of his fellow Tanzanians?

In May, I asked here, “Is shock of numbers gone in virus war?”  I posited that the shock factor of COVID-19 was waning fast, hurtling to join that of corruption, which died eons ago.

Today, as then, I’m rambling some more.  A sale is successful when pitched both quantitatively and qualitatively. And this sale is becoming a hard one. Quantitatively, based on the daily Ministry of Health briefings, Coronavirus (a respiratory disease) has killed about 100 people a month over the last six months, 69 per cent of whom had underlying conditions.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 80 per cent of those contracting the virus recover; further, data published in 2018 by WHO, says, influenza and pneumonia deaths in Kenya reached 19,503 or 7.64% of total deaths. That’s about 1,600 deaths a month! And both are respiratory diseases, only, we take them in stride.  

Put into perspective, in his Pneumonia daily briefing updates, CS Mutahi Kagwe would be reporting an average of FIFTY FOUR deaths. EVERY. DAY.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, malaria (though not caused by a virus) kills about 1,000 Kenyans a month! It is instructive that the spike in COVID-19 deaths has remained steady even with the opening of county borders and is now firmly entrenched in the community.  Interestingly, WHO reports show that, almost a year in, deaths from COVID-19 globally are not at a million yet as at writing this article, and, the Ministry of Health reports, those from tuberculosis, a bacterial respiratory disease, were 1.5 million in 2018.

Qualitatively, social distancing as a preventive measure is a hard sell when all predictions have fallen flat. ‘Dehydrated’ slum areas, choking with school-going children, were supposed to have been most susceptible to the disease because social distancing was simply impossible. Further, masks are intended to be of a particular quality, and for one time use only, if they are to work. Plain cloth was a no-no. Economic constraints for the vast majority have made a joke of the first two and firmly entrenched the no-no as a  yes-yes. And yet, nothing.

If predictions were as anticipated, by now, our slums would have been ravished by the virus.  Further, those that can afford to use masks as intended have them as an accessory in their cars; they are like a pair of sunglasses to be donned when needed. And for many, irrespective of economic stature, it’s not a face mask but a chin guard. It doesn’t help that politicians are brazenly drinking the virus wine they have been preaching against, as they pollute the hitherto apolitical air with loud beats of ‘reggae’ to which the congested rallies bob their heads.

Will this end up being the ‘Corona con’? Should Kenya be writing her own COVID 19 narrative, and not emulating others? Or, who am I to advise on matters medical?

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