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Kenya making right steps in anti-Corona war

By Levi Obonyo
Friday, March 27th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta.

It is not the easiest of time for anyone. The coronavirus has hit the world with vengeance.

From Washington, DC, where the President of the United States has turned the daily briefings into something of a reality show, through London where the British Prime Minister is seeking to project an image of a reincarnation of Winston Churchill to Nairobi, world leaders are seeking to reassure their publics.

Whether it is in Italy that has become the new epicentre of the virus attack, or Spain, a nation the virus has shown little mercy, to Tehran now so devastated and seemingly forgotten by the rest of the world, countries are seeking ways to reassure their people that together we will get over this.

Nairobi has been trying her best. It may have been a fortuitous act that President Uhuru Kenyatta shuffled his Cabinet shortly before the onset of the virus bringing in Mutahi Kagwe to manage the health docket.

The minister has been managing messaging with professionalism in his briefings. His demeanour and personality has, over the short period of time, given the Health ministry a new image.

Imagine the ministry prior to the arrival of Kagwe. It could not deal decisively with the report that supermarkets were lacing meat with preservatives to make them last longer on the shelves.

In a near dramatic press conference, the then Cabinet Secretary warned of drastic action telling the proprietors of the supermarkets that the ministry was coming for them. But the threat ended there.

This is the ministry that has been wading from one scandal to the next. How would it have generated confidence to enable the public trust Afya House to even know what was happening?

For the first time in a long time it appears the government has responded to a public concern with firmness and clarity.

You get it that the government gets it. Coronavirus pandemic is both a public health and economic issue.

It has disrupted the normal course of life: schools are closed, businesses are slowing if not shutting down, and the normal pace of life is being disrupted. 

In rural Kenya, nowhere is this being felt more than in Western region where elaborate funeral rituals have to be scaled down in keeping with physical distance requirement.

President Uhuru has not disappointed either. In the raft of measures taken to cushion the public from the ravages of coronavirus, it has been clear that Harambee House has been hard at work.

The curfew set to come into force tonight is a clear reminder to anybody doubting the resolve of the State.

The raft of measures adopted by the government suggest empathy with the public and business, desired to stir the economy.

Tax relief to low income bracket, reduction in PAYE, corporation and micro, small and medium enterprises taxes and other measures should provide some cushion, however, limited to the public during these difficult times.

In the middle of the exemplary performances has been the role of the media. The media are often bashed for one reason or the other.

But give credit to Kenyan media for their professionalism and focusing attention on this one major national issue.

If any segment of the media is to be faulted, it is the social one with its free-for-all nature embellishing truth as it pleases.

But fingers remain pointed at sections of our society. Our political class, often in our face, have been the first to take cover at the first mention of the virus. Then the religious cadre.

We do well not to bash the whole lot. A large swathe of the church behaved very responsibly, offering their services online with their doors closed on Sunday. But there will always be the wayward ones.

The journey ahead has many unknowns. But the country is making sure steps and hopefully we will turn the corner with minimum casualties. God help us. — The writer is the dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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