Kenyans should brace for a long lockdown ahead

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A hawker sells her wares in Nairobi's Kariokor,Many businesses are doing badly due to the economic impact of coronavirus. [PHOTO COURTESY]

Kenyans should prepare for a long period of corona virus-related restrictions like it is happening elsewhere in the world.

For example, the UK, which confirmed its first case on January 31, says even in the best case scenario it will take at least three months to bring the disease under control.

The most vulnerable in the UK have been asked to self-isolate for 12 weeks, which will likely stretch into May. China, where the first case was officially reported on December 8, has indicated that some of the restrictions are likely to stay in place until June.

Scientists in the US, UK and the World Health Organisation (WHO) expect the lockdown to take a similar trend in other countries. In Kenya, the first case was confirmed last Friday.

Various restrictions such as strict travel arrangement, working at home and closing of learning institutions were announced. Other restrictions have since been placed by individual governors in their respective counties.

But barely three days into the restrictions, small-scale traders in Nairobi are already wailing over coronavirus induced hardships.

“Normally by 10am, I should have made at least Sh400. I have only made Sh80 since morning today. People are hardly coming into the city,” said James Mulei, a shoe shiner near the Kenya National Archives, Nairobi.

Another trader, Jane Mulinge, who supplies vegetables to a now closed primary school in Embakasi, said: “I hope this does not go on for long, otherwise we are going to starve.”

Most of the traders we talked to in Nairobi said they hope the lockdown could be lifted within 30 days. But going with what is being witnessed worldwide, the crisis could linger on longer.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump warned that the outbreak could spread into the summer (until August) or even beyond. WHO has said the crisis in Sub-Sahara African countries could take a more severe turn than has been experienced elsewhere in the world.

On Monday, WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus expressed fears of more severe infections in Africa due to high rates of HIV, malnutrition, intestinal worms and malaria.

More than one million Kenyans are living with HIV. Therefore, they have weak immune systems which exposes them to coronavirus attacks. A prolonged Covid 19 situation in Kenya is also likely to run into the flu season (cold seasons from April to July).

This is the time many coughing people will run to hospitals and aggravate the situation. The 2019 Economic Survey shows in 2018, about 40 per cent or 22 million hospital visits in Kenya were due to respiratory problems.