Columnists

Kenya a scapegoat for UK Covid failures

BORIS

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. FILE PHOTO | AFP

jenny

Summary

  • Facts: in the northern UK today, where people are now being allowed to meet again and where shops and outdoor restaurants will reopen in coming days, infection rates are still running in some cities more than eight times higher than in Kenya.
  • Take Barnsley at 148 infections per 100,000 of population, Doncaster at 144, Sheffield at 137.
  • No red-listing for France with its 415 cases per 100,000.

The last two weeks have brought new travel restrictions so harsh that few of us can still believe the coronavirus pandemic and all its costs are yet behind us.

But, throughout this entire pandemic, populist politics and media hype have driven far greater costs and suffering than the SARS-COV-2, itself, will ever lay claim to. With the UK’s red-listing of Kenya being a case in point.

For the Foreign ministry is not wrong about the statistical and scientific absurdity of this red listing. International sources still give Kenya an infection rate that is lower than the lowest handful of town and rural areas in the UK. Kenya has suffered 1/40th of the Covid deaths that the UK has. In short, it has a pinprick of an epidemic compared to Great Britain.

Yet now we are to believe that the country’s levels of infection mean coming from Kenya is more dangerous than moving around the UK.

Facts: in the northern UK today, where people are now being allowed to meet again and where shops and outdoor restaurants will reopen in coming days, infection rates are still running in some cities more than eight times higher than in Kenya. Take Barnsley at 148 infections per 100,000 of population, Doncaster at 144, Sheffield at 137.

And then dangerous Kenya, at 17. But wait, Kenya has dangerous variants, like the UK variant, from the UK, where it long ago ripped right through the country. But no, no, Kenya isn’t more dangerous because it has some of the variant already dominant in Britain, it’s because it has the South African variant.

Yes, the South African variant that repeated tests claim the new vaccinations cover, with over half the UK’s population vaccinated, and with the South African variant now dominant in France, but no red-listing for France with its 415 cases per 100,000.

It doesn’t take a genius to smell a rat.

But the rat isn’t about Kenya. Indeed, the country is of so little importance to the UK, as are the wellbeing of its people, its economy, and its trade relations, that none of them mattered against some very different domestic UK dynamics.

For the British people are fed up. They have spent most of the last year living under ‘stay at home’ orders. Their country has suffered one of the worst Covid hits of any country in the world, blamed on their own government’s early inaction, and subsequent trail of incompetence.

We suffer plenty of political and financial scandals in Kenya. We don’t hear so much about the British ones. But try the UK government’s spend of over Sh8 trillion on a test-and-trace scheme that never worked and which every auditing body has concluded was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. Even our scandals aren’t that large.

So, the UK government was beginning to go down on Covid failure. And that’s why it ordered 400 million vaccinations for its 60 million population, has vaccinated sometimes half a million people in a day, and that’s what the red list is about.

Because if there’s one thing that makes a British person see red these days it’s the thought of another British person on holiday, as the masses sit at home without even the pubs open since last year. And one enterprising journalist wrote in January this year that the Kenyan coast was full of illicit British holiday makers. Which is so bad, as a sin to be punished, that when social media infuencers went to Dubai to party, the UK red-listed nearly Covid-free Dubai too.

Yet the most offensive thing about servicing the British wolf pack chasing ‘rule breaking’ by British people, is that the British holiday makers weren’t here. No one at this leaky British High Commission that tells us all about British plans through the Daily Telegraph even bothered to check. But I did. And they weren’t there.

So Kenya isn’t dangerous. What’s dangerous to the UK government are British voters who think it’s soft on rule breakers when so many are keeping horrible rules. And Kenya became a paper lion.

Just one more testament to zero fact checking or logic in any of this: our biggest casualties.