Health & Fitness

Hits and misses in pandemic fight


Nurses in protective gears at Mbagathi Hospital during the launch of an isolation and treatment centre for the new coronavirus dubbed COVID-19, in Nairobi on March 6, 2020. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

As the world rallies behind the medical forces to beat the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to appreciate and learn a lesson or two from how different countries have struggled under the immense pressure to flatten the infection curve and enforce an effective return to work formula.

Kenya currently has 963 active Covid-19 cases, recording 336 recoveries and 50 deaths. The government, through the Ministry of Health, has further put in place stricter measures to contain the spread of the virus. China, for example, enforced a total lockdown at Wuhan, Hubei Province, the epicentre of the outbreak and imposed a ban against movement in and out of the neighbouring provinces.

However, China’s approach to contain the spread of the virus was largely influenced by strict immigration laws implemented during the pandemic. Mass testing for Covid-19 kicked off in China with all residents required to produce proof of residence, and valid visas for foreigners which entitled them to testing catered for by their monthly contribution towards the government medical scheme.

Once tested and found negative, residents received special documentation which allowed them to access their homes, public facilities like supermarkets and hotels.

Public health and law enforcement agents did not entirely ace the manner in which foreigners of African descent were treated in the wake of the mass testing exercise in Guangzhou that kicked off late March, as it is believed some did not possess valid visas or work permits.

After a series of horrifying videos of Africans stranded in Guangzhou started doing rounds on social media, the Chinese and Kenyan embassy bowed to mounting pressure from the public and condemned the alleged mistreatment of foreigners in Guangzhou. The two governments sought to work together to diplomatically achieve a solution to the problem and see an end to the worrying trend of racial profiling.

In comparison to China, Germany and South Korea have impeccably managed to contain the spread and infection cases after making a series of damning mistakes while combating similar epidemics that preceded the novel coronavirus

. In 1918, the Spanish flu claimed the lives of thousands of German soldiers who were actively serving in the German Army in World War 1.

The Spanish flu is regarded as the most devastating epidemic in history which prompted Germany to dedicate hours of research and labour in preparedness for any subsequent epidemics.

South Korea was able to contain the outbreak within a month with the number of reported daily infections falling from 800 to 100 in the first two weeks. South Korea was hit with SARS and H1N1 Influenza in 2002 and 2009 respectively, which killed several hundred citizens.

From these epidemics, both Germany and South Korea saw the need for early testing and the isolation of the infected patients to avoid secondary infections. Similarly, China, South Korea and Germany have a written infectious-disease-prevention legislation that allows medical practitioners to use available diagnostic kits during a public health emergency and warrantless access to geolocation data from suspected infected cases to expand contact tracing.

However, most African countries are currently not well equipped to handle a pandemic of such magnitude.

In Kenya, the World Health Organisation (WHO) donated funds as a contribution to the fight against the novel coronavirus. Additionally, the Alibaba Foundation under billionaire investor Jack Ma has also made a generous contribution by donating test kits, ventilators and PPEs which are now being used in a number of African countries.

It goes without saying that unity in the face of adversity will lighten the burden and strengthen our efforts. Covid-19 is a battle that knows no race, social or economic status; it is not a respecter of persons. Therefore, this is a call to all nations to unite and fight for a common goal; to eradicate the novel coronavirus and restore normalcy within our borders.

The writer is communications strategist.