Covid bug ravaging India wake-up call for Africa

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 00:00 | By
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment. Photo/File

As Kenyans welcome President Uhuru Kenyatta’s lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown he imposed last month, they should be wary that the deadly virus is still very much with us.

The decision was made due to a fall in coronavirus cases and the desperate economic situation of citizens whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.

Ministry of Health figures on Sunday indicated that Kenya’s Covid-19 positivity rate was 8.3 per cent from the 369 cases recorded in 4,469 samples.

This brought the total number of confirmed cases to 160,422, with 1,679,779 samples tested, while 2,763 people have died.

The fear is that these lower figures may offer some comfort leading to laxity in adhering to the measures instituted to control transmission and curb the spread of the disease.

True, they may not compare to the apocalyptic scenario in India, which on the same day recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll (3,689) after becoming the first country to register more than 400,000 new cases over 24 hours. 

India’s total 19 million cases are second only to the US (32 million) out of a global total of 151 million. India has also confirmed more than 215,000 deaths.

However, let us not be lulled into complacency in the war against the virus thinking that India with a population of 1.39 billion is far off from Kenya (population 54.35 million).

We have a lot in common within the health, economic and political realm despite this demographic divide.

As the crisis unfolded with no national lockdown officially imposed, vote counting started for elections held in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal states and Puducherry union territory, with eyes on the outcome for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party.

In Kenya, the eased lockdown rules still restrict political activity, sparing hospitality, educational, religious and travel services.

However, political temperatures will certainly rise, more so after Parliament concludes debate on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) ahead of a referendum.

Respecting health concerns, Kenya Airways on Saturday evacuated 199 Kenyans from Mumbai, some of who had gone to this traditional specialised medical care destination. 

India, now turned recipient from major pharmaceuticals manufacturer, had supplied many countries including Kenya with the Astra-Zeneca vaccine but halted the exercise to devote full attention to its more aggrieved citizens. Kenya is already feeling the pinch.

As Indian authorities avoid imposing a national lockdown to prevent an economic shutdown, experts warn they will get into serious trouble if they do not respect the virus’ ability to cause serious damage.

Hospitals are battling to treat patients amid a chronic shortage of beds and medical oxygen.

In a delicate battle to save lives and livelihoods, industry experts are urging Modi and State authorities to take the “strongest national steps” to curtail economic activity to save lives, as cases overwhelm the country’s healthcare system. Many States have since announced lockdowns.

Africa has not suffered as badly from the pandemic as other parts of the world, but the African Union’s disease control agency warns governments and citizens not to let their guards down, saying the raging coronavirus in India is a wake-up call for Africa.

As we learn from India’s crisis, we should also heed visiting Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s caution after taking over from the late John Magufuli and his coronavirus denial policy. 

Forming a special committee to research on Covid, she said Tanzanians and her government need to take a position supported with scientific evidence. That is as it should be. [email protected]

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