Mr. President, I am writing to bring to your attention a few issues relating to gaps in the implementation of containment measures on the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya which are frustrating the government intervention.
We are fully using military approach implemented by the police on a largely public health issue thus the little success we are seeing. The absence of health officials in the implementation of the current containment measures especially cessation of movement from zone one, curfew hours, use of masks within communities is very telling. Among the most strategic interventions in dealing with pandemics like contact tracing and community education are missing in the current approach.
Public health officials have refused to accompany police on swoops, and at roadblocks because the exercise is targeted at rent seeking rather than helping the community understand and participate in containing the outbreak. Police have turned the exercises into money-making ventures rather than health education. The 8pm curfew hour thing is not working and should immediately be re-thought as the suffering it is exposing people to is unnecessary and in fact creating public disturbance including flouting of the social distance keeping requirement at police roadblocks.
That even those with genuine travel documents are not subjected to vetting measures like temperature taking is very dangerous. Visits by public health officials to those undergoing home based care never take place. The road accidents and ugly scenes being witnessed as people rush to beat the curfew hours are a security threat rather than a health measure to deal with a pandemic. Such panic interventions make the country appear unprepared and lacking in health policy. Such haste interventions facilitate corruption and promote unhealthy competition among government agencies like what is happening between the police and the public health officials.
The suffering people are going through on Thika , Mombasa and Limuru roads trying to beat the curfew, as people still work in offices until 5pm is unbearable. It’s a security risk to the nation and the curfew hours need to be relooked at urgently especially in Nairobi. I am sure your voters and campaign persons in Juja Constituency have alerted you on the tribulations on Thika Road for example where motorists caught up in the night curfew on Saturday were forced to stay on the road until after midnight. We are unable to trace those within us that are risky populations, and those that for example engage in behavior that endanger others either are protected or bribe their way out of the situations.
The complacency on the part of the authorities especially officers managing cessation check points into and from certain areas, the behavior by riders to sneak in or out persons from these areas, and Kenyans who seem determined to showcase impunity by breaking the government directives are indeed frustrating public health interventions to contain the pandemic. It is true that the military approach to handling the pandemic is problematic, and has alienated members of the public from fully feeling part of the solution, we have no reasons to flout these measures simply because we are yet to lose a family member or close friend.
The security teams have let us down for allowing impunity and facilitating the spread of the virus through social networks, social gatherings and failure in assisting the health teams in tracing the high risky populations, or making the exercise a criminal enterprise. It is wrong for some police and members of the Office of the President at the local levels to continue protecting those flouting presidential directives, especially during such times like now. It contributes to eroding respect for the Presidency in addition to endangering the lives of Kenyans.
Along the roads, most of the screening is not done, police roadblocks remain ineffective as people either bribe their way, use riders to dodge or walk past the points with impunity, making a mockery of the stops, people wearing masks below their noses while a number of washing/sanitization points remain unutilized.
Lets re-active the multi agency emergency teams at the local levels to deal with the pandemic instead of leaving only the police to lead the country’s COVID 19 response. With people still required to work until 5pm by employers, please move the curfew to 11 pm and ease the suffering people are going through in Nairobi.
The writer is the Deputy CEO at the Media council of Kenya.