Kenya’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been swift and authoritative. However, these measures – closing borders, encouraging social distancing, testing and isolating positive cases, insisting on higher levels of hygiene and discouraging non-essential travel – can only reduce the rate of the spread of Coronavirus. They can’t eradicate the virus.
Flattening the curve, in other words, reducing the number of people who are ill at any one time serves many purposes. For our healthcare system, a flat curve buys time to increase our capacity to care for the individuals who eventually get sick – time to acquire more beds, medical supplies, ventilators, protective equipment and even for healthcare teams to mentally shift to the new reality. For the government, this time is crucial for developing and implementing new public health regulations, as we have seen recently.
All this is to say that while our efforts thus far have been admirable, we still need to confront two harsh realities. First, the only way to get rid of the Coronavirus is through a vaccine, which, based on expert opinion, is 12 to 18 months away. Secondly, we can’t stay at home for another 12 to 18 months.
Given those two facts, society and businesses might as well start thinking about how to move on and try to prosper despite Coronavirus.
For this to happen, we first need to accept that the containment and mitigation measures are here to stay with us until we get a vaccine and/or a cure. Therefore, for the next 12 to 18 months, we must observe extremely high levels of hygiene, which should be reduced to detailed and strict protocols in public and workplaces. Constant hand washing, wearing masks, and observing social distancing is our new patriotic duty and way of life. We have to do everything to break the chain of transmission.
Secondly, we have to ramp up our healthcare system to be able to handle those who will unfortunately but inevitably fall ill. Remember, the containment and mitigation measures can only slow down infections, not stop them wholly.
Third, because the disease does not discriminate, we have to prepare ourselves individually for the possibility that we may fall ill, even after doing everything humanly possible to avoid it
Finally, and quite unfortunately, we have to prepare, as Boris Johnson once told the British people, that we, our loved ones or colleagues may depart this world before their time.
Once we have institutionalized the new way of life, ramped up our healthcare system, made peace with the possibility of falling sick and even dying, we then need to get back to work as we await the vaccine because we can’t stay home for the next 12 to 18 months.
That’s the reality as I see it.
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