Days after Covid travel restrictions for Nairobi were lifted, I travelled upcountry for the funeral of a family friend. In light of the official advice to avoid unnecessary travel to the countryside, I had debated long and hard whether to make the trip. I decided to go because the deceased’s family have been friends since I was young.
What struck me was that many people in the villages are not scrupulously observing the Covid-19 rules. They don’t seem to have accustomed themselves to routinely wear face masks when they leave their homes.
Many still shake hands heartily, despite the known risks. It was clear old habits persist. At the local shopping centre, I did not observe much physical distancing. If rural counties want to contain the corona pandemic, the locals need to take the necessary precautions more seriously.
This is especially so since over 80 per cent of the cases are reported to be asymptomatic, meaning they don’t exhibit Covid-19 symptoms.
Covid-19 cases in Kenya have basically doubled from last month, with the caseload sharply accelerating since the Nairobi and Mombasa lockdowns were lifted earlier this month. Not long afterwards, the chairman of the Council of Governors Wycliffe Oparanya suggested that lockdowns could be introduced in the counties that have seen an unusual surge of infections since the urban restrictions were relaxed. The counties most affected are Kajiado, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma, Machakos, Taita-Taveta and Busia.
Lately, the Ministry of Health is putting greater stress on home-based care of Covid-19 patients. It reduces costs for the government and eases the crowding in hospitals.
The MoH says home-care patients should not have underlying conditions like diabetes and that nobody in the household should be over 64. It is also recommended that the patient be kept in an isolated room with a separate toilet and a bathroom, which is an impossibility in informal urban settlements. Indeed, it is a challenge in most poor households.
In a related development, 20 specialist doctors from Cuba are here to boost the anti-Covid fight. They will be based at the Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital, initially for six months.
It has been the case in many countries across the world, where restrictions are relaxed, that corona infections spike.
A tragic example is South Africa, which this week was recording an alarming 12,000 cases a day on average, which is about 500 infections per hour. As of Friday, the South African caseload had shot to over 300,000 and nearly 5,000 deaths.
Remarkably, three African countries had not recorded any Covid deaths as of Friday. The lucky trio are Uganda, Eritrea and Seychelles. Botswana and Western Sahara were also faring well, with only one Covid death apiece. The matter of Burundi, which had also reported a single death, is cloudy amid fears by experts that it has not been recording its fatalities.
Worldwide, the United States continues to lead the tally of Covid cases. The country has four per cent of the world’s population, but 25 per cent of infections. Many states in the US have seen a spike in cases after relaxing self-isolation measures. Inexplicably, the Republican governor of the state of Georgia is suing the mayor of the city of Atlanta for ordering the obligatory wearing of face masks in the city.
It has been observed that minorities in the US — blacks and native Americans — are being affected disproportionately by the virus. It is not known exactly why, though disparities in access to quality healthcare could certainly be a factor.
Probably the trend could further be accentuated by blacks and native Americans suffering more than whites from underlying ailments like diabetes and hypertension.
The same propensity for minorities — this time blacks and Asians — becoming infected more disproportionately has been seen in Britain.
After the US, Brazil continues to record the highest infections, which are now at more than two million. President Jair Bolsonaro has been previously criticised for his cavalier attitude to the pandemic. (He had dismissed Covid-19 as “a minor flu”.) As fate would have it, he has since been infected with corona and is currently in isolation. Two other Latin American leaders who have been stricken with the virus are Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Anez and Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
A spat between the US, Britain and Canada on the one hand and Russia on the other points to the vital stakes involved in finding a coronavirus vaccine. The Western trio have accused Russia of hacking into the computers of research labs in the West to steal information on their coronavirus vaccine development. Russia has denied the accusations, saying its own efforts to find a vaccine are at an advanced stage.