Ideas & Debate

Save economic recovery from resurgence of Covid pandemic

Economic-corona
george wachira_img

Summary

  • Covid-19 resurgence statistics point to a serious problem that requires more visible and audible messaging in all manner of communication media, undertaken by both the national and county governments.
  • Merely pleading “personal responsibly” to the public may not be good enough. Nor is it realistic to expect the police to alone handle Covid-19 controls with roadblocks, batons, and fines.
  • Failure to achieve significant Covid-19 controls compliance will no doubt jeopardise economic recovery which the country has been registering after lifting of lockdowns.

What we are seeing are statistics of Covid-19 virus which is coming back with a vengeance. Even funeral notices in newspapers are noticeably increasing by the day. Lifting of travel restrictions a few months ago were misunderstood by many Kenyans to mean that Covid-19 was no longer a threat. As a result, original fears of Covid-19 evaporated, and we prematurely dropped our guards and caution before the virus was sufficiently controlled.

Now, the ever observant and opportunistic virus is systematically pouncing back after noticing behavioural cracks among Kenyans as masks are discarded (or lowered), social distancing ignored, and carefree socialisation and politicking resumed. These are happenings quite evident in towns and villages across the country. The economy which was gradually recovering may now be at risk.

Covid-19 resurgence statistics point to a serious problem that requires more visible and audible messaging in all manner of communication media, undertaken by both the national and county governments. Merely pleading “personal responsibly” to the public may not be good enough. Nor is it realistic to expect the police to alone handle Covid-19 controls with roadblocks, batons, and fines.

Failure to achieve significant Covid-19 controls compliance will no doubt jeopardise economic recovery which the country has been registering after lifting of lockdowns. I routinely monitor petroleum products consumption which is a good measure of national economic performance. During the early months of the shutdowns, fuels demand had gone down to about 40per cent. A check last week indicated consumption recovery back to about 80percent, which is good progress.

We need to manage Covid-19 prevalence to levels that will not prompt resumption of economic activity restrictions - a possibility which cannot be entirely ruled out if the pandemic runs amok. Vicious virus resurgence is happening in Europe and lockdowns are back, with serious reversals of economic gains previously registered. This can indeed happen here in Kenya if we do not pre-empt the possibility.

Politicians will need to join hands in preaching virus controls compliance and stop playing bystanders and victims of the pandemic. They should be seen to be leading by example, and when they have surplus cash to spare buy masks for those who cannot genuinely afford them. Yes, the politicians can make a major impact with the public, and the sooner they do it the earlier their political gatherings will resume.

Use of face masks (and social distancing) is now accepted as scientifically the most effective deterrent against the virus multiplication and this should be a message relentlessly delivered and the practice enforced. Widespread wearing of face masks is the most visible indication that a country is indeed serious and committed to checking the virus.

The mask is a very innocent piece of fabric which has unfortunately been politicised, maligned, and avoided by many people. Wearing masks is of course an inconvenient and mostly ugly exercise, but its utility value in controlling the virus should be strong enough reason to wear them. There is an implied correlation between universal use of masks, and economic recovery. They pre-empt need for lockdowns.

Across the world, vaccines are now queueing for launch, but it will be months before they are widely available and affordable to Kenyans. In the meantime, we need to discipline ourselves to keep the virus at bay and prevent it from overwhelming capacity of health systems- personnel, infrastructure, and finances

I first wrote about Corona Virus in this column in late January when it was exploding in China, and when there was only one case reported in Europe. My opinion then was limited to the global economic impacts from potential air and sea travel restrictions to and from China-a a major trade player.

Since then the virus has become a global phenomenon, stretching the wits and capacities of human beings and economies across the entire world. And it remains a major challenge until affordable vaccines are universally available.

Our authorities did a commendable job in the first phase of the pandemic, and valuable lessons were learned. In the second pandemic phase which we are entering, the objective should be to control the virus without necessarily having to impose lockdowns, to sustain the ongoing economic recovery.