Over the weekend, a section of Kenyans decided to ignore the social distancing rules the government has put forward to fight coronavirus.
One can’t help but wonder whether they are blind to the dire consequences that a full-blown outbreak of the virus will have on their lives, and the fact that by doing so they are also endangering the lives of others.
It is time for the government to crack the whip, and painfully so, on those who are flouting the Health Act by refusing to take precaution against spreading the virus. If the measures laid out are to be effective, flouters need to be charged in a court of law as soon as possible.
Since the first case of coronavirus was announced in Kenya two weeks ago, there has been a concerted effort to furnish the public with information about the measures needed to stem its spread, and the dire economic cost of the outbreak.
It, therefore, falls upon each Kenyan to do their bit to mitigate the outbreak.
In this light, therefore, it was desperately sad to see an elected official from Kilifi refuse to go into quarantine after a trip abroad to an affected country, and on top of that attend numerous public functions. Churches that ignored the social distancing requirements also ought to hang their heads in shame, having exposed their congregants to a disease possibly in pursuit of collections and tithe, which can always be remitted electronically if they must.
As noted by the Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on Sunday, Kenya will do well to heed the examples from South Korea and Italy of the consequences of ignoring the measures meant to slow down the spread of the virus.
Going forward, we are calling on the government to take a more proactive stance in enforcing these social distancing rules, now that some Kenyans are proving they will not voluntarily protect themselves.
Having said that, the State must also remain alive to its duty to ensure that every Kenyan can survive these hard and unprecedented times, through the provision of social safety nets that will protect businesses and the poor.
That some form of a bailout is needed is not in doubt, and maybe incentives such as tax breaks to improve purchasing power and keep small firms afloat.
Such a move by the National Treasury will also go a long way in helping Kenyans observe the social distancing rules — it will eliminate the hard choice between exposure to the illness or survival.