The 7 PM to 5 AM curfew will not help in the fight against coronavirus
The cry from every quarter was for President Kenyatta to lockdown the country. Those who claimed to be privy to the President went around social media stating how the President will make an announcement to the effect that starting this Friday the entire country will be in lockdown; only for the President to confidently announce that what will happen starting Friday the 27th of March 2020 until God knows when will be a nationwide curfew. What I do not understand is how this curfew is going to help in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
“Does the virus spread only at night?” Several wannabe analysts have mused. You see calling for a lockdown is very easy to understand. Coronavirus spreads mainly through close human to human contact: handshakes, body contact including kissing, hugging, being at a distant where a sneeze or a cough droplet can get into you, touching surfaces touched by an infected person, and similar proximity situations. Locking down the country will therefore limit people’s movement which will prevent the spread of the virus in two ways: those infected will have fewer people to interact with, and those not infected will have fewer chances of interacting with those infected.
But how does curfew help? Curfew simply prevents every person from being outside their homes at night, a time period where in actuality very few people are normally outside. But since during the day everyone will still be allowed to walk around freely, and given that the curfew had locked everyone in their houses at night, the amount of congestion that will be experienced the day after a night of lockdown will increase. It is this congestion that will increase the chances of everyone coming into close contacts with each other, hence increase the chances of infection, particularly from asymptomatic individuals who I believe are already in their hundreds if not thousands walking around the entire country.
What I would have expected is similar to the order issued by CS for Health Mutahi Kagwe. In his earlier directive, the CS required all supermarkets to be opened 24 hours a day, giving Kenyans an increased time to shop at the supermarket. At the same time, the CS directed that at the malls and in the supermarket only one person will be allowed in at a time, thereby minimising chances of coming into contact with someone who is infected.
That’s the philosophy the president ought to have followed, where the president could have directed for businesses to open for longer hours, and those that can open for 24 hours a day to do so, so that customers do not have to be crowded at a specific location. This would have not only allowed Kenyans to distribute their shopping and chores time throughout an entire 24 hour day period, but would also have allowed the government to see if operating a 24 hour economy would be feasible even after the coronavirus is dealt with.
While still on the subject of effectively dealing with the virus, the government needs to figure out how to have every Kenyan get tested for the virus in the next two weeks. The first thing the government could do in this nationwide programme is to foremost acquire enough kits, distribute those kits to every health facility, both public and private, and mobilize Kenyans to go and get tested. When every Kenyan is tested, those who test positive should be isolated to receive treatment, while everyone they came in contact with to be tracked, and forced to quarantine for 14 days.
Testing everyone might seem to be too expensive, but when the government went about implementing the unnecessary Huduma Number, it immediately set aside Shs 6 billion for the exercise, an exercise whose usefulness we are yet to see. For the fight against coronavirus, the government has already set aside Kshs 7.4 billion, received Kshs 6.1 billion from World Bank, even as counties set aside an average of shs 30 million each to fight the virus. Part of this money particularly those that are being set aside by the counties ought to be channeled towards mass-testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid19.
The cost of mass-testing might seem outrageously high, but won’t be higher than locking down the entire country for 21 days that South Africa has opted for. It is mass testing that made it possible for South Korea to contain their graph and at the same time minimise their deaths as much as they can.