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Not yet time to celebrate ‘flattening the curve’

By Alberto Leny
Tuesday, September 8th, 2020
A passenger sanitizes his hands before departure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In summary

Reports of the declining caseload of coronavirus infections in the country and signs of flattening the pandemic’s curve should be treated with a lot of caution.

Although Ministry of Health predictions that the rising rate of infections over the past five months would peak around September have largely come true, it does not mean that we are safe from the clutches of Covid-19.

Before Kenyans consider whether the pandemic is receding from our midst based on the latest statistics, it would be wise to evaluate related medical, demographic and socio-economic factors.

In acknowledging a decline in the number of reported infections, we must remember that it requires astute political will to mobilise and educate citizens, motivate frontline health workers and support services to deal with the virus.

Apart from preventing and mitigating the debilitating health impacts and economic damage of the pandemic, a timely and effective surveillance and adequate response strategy has to be in place.

The first step is to assess the effectiveness of the measures undertaken by the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus established by President Uhuru Kenyatta in February.

Curfew, partial lockdowns, border closures and the imposition of travel restrictions, while their execution may have been draconian in some cases, have helped control the spread of the virus.

Still a vital knowledge from the surveillance measures in helping flatten the curve can be obtained by answering a number of questions posed by epidemiologists and public health experts:

Should we test everybody or only those suspected? How robust is our system to the mantra test, isolate, treat and track? Do we have enough test kits? Can we isolate all the identified numbers?

Do we have enough human resources, equipment and drugs to treat these cases, and how can we track the hidden cases to prevent resurgence? 

Only by adequately answering these questions can we start suggesting that we have succeeded in flattening the curve. 

While there is cause for celebration in the current downturn, our testing is still inadequate and sampling mostly confined to Nairobi and Mombasa and environs –– Kiambu, Kajiado and Machakos.

What about the counties where the virus may have penetrated unmarked into communities?

Second,  it is important to note the World Health Organisation (WHO) report last week that nearly all countries (90 per cent) have experienced disruption to health services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Low and middle-income countries including Kenya reported the greatest difficulties, which will have short- medium and long-term harmful effects on population health. 

WHO says the pandemic should be a lesson to all countries that they must better prepare for emergencies, but also keep investing in health systems that fully respond to people’s needs.

Unfortunately, in Kenya the pandemic has been overshadowed by shocking revelations of the Covid-19 corruption scandal rocking the Ministry of Health and the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.

That anyone can connive to corruptly benefit on a massive scale from a grave health crisis affecting millions of lives and livelihoods is not only immoral, but is also an act comparable to treason.

The media must relentlessly pursue the matter to unearth the truth.

Notorious “tenderpreneurs” who bleed public coffers dry must be exposed and the culprits severely punished. [email protected]

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