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Kenya should avoid the ‘sins’ of New York in virus war





As Kenya announced on Thursday five more positive cases of Covid-19 disease to bring its national tally to 184, in New York City, 799 people died from Wednesday to Thursday, bringing the state’s toll to 6,268.

The Ministry of Health says 5,588 people have been tested, seven have died and 12 have recovered.

And Health CS Mutahi Kagwe warned Kenyans on Tuesday to brace for worse.

I was a bit confused when Mr Kagwe said they had tested 696 people within 24 hours only for his CAS to dampen the feat the following day with a figure of 305.

Why the reduction? Even with more testing kits and personnel? The ministry should roll out mass testing.

That will give us credible statistics and help the government to make better and more focused plans.

One of the major failings of New York in fighting the pandemic was delay and/or difficulties in expanding testing, according to an article, “How delays and unheeded warnings hindered New York’s virus fight”, by J. David Goodman.

Published in The New York Times, it exposes some shortcomings of the American state’s leadership and residents in the fight against Covid-19, which has claimed the lives of many African Americans.

As at April 9, some 149,401 had tested positive for Covid-19 in the state.

Another “mistake”, it says, was delay in imposing lockdown and effecting stay-at-home orders. New York imposed a lockdown on March 15 — having already recorded 329 cases — and stay-at-home orders on March 22.

Kenya is at 184 infections. Should impose a lockdown, especially Nairobi Metropolis, noting that our health system is way below par (compared to New York’s)?

Should that happen, the national and county governments must cushion the vulnerable by distributing food to poor households — what Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is doing.


Another lesson is to adhere to government directives. But the government has failed on this one.

While officials have tried to ensure that the curfew is enforced, they seem to have forgotten about other directives — like wearing of face masks.

The government should acquire more ventilators, face masks and testing kits and open and operationalise additional isolation and quarantine centres.

We don’t have enough time but, as the Luo say, better start early than rush to a (witch)doctor later.

I read that two Kenyans have developed a ventilator. Samuel Kairu and Paul Kariuki from Thika built a prototype and are lobbying for its testing and mobilisation for 3D printing. If this can’t get multimillion-shilling funding, what should?

Daniel Many Owiti, Uasin Gishu

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