Kenya: Global Lessons From the Pandemic

20 November 2020

At the start of this week, 1.3 million people had officially died on account of Covid-19 worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, another 55 million people had contracted the virus.

It was a bitter-sweet week as far as efforts to battle the virus are concerned.

On one hand was the great news of a second vaccine with a 95 per cent efficacy rate. We also saw leading capitals tighten travel, school bans and other containment measures as the second wave of the pandemic batters many regions.

Locally, the situation seems to mirror the global positions, albeit on a less scale, but the numbers of fatalities and infections are rising. We have lost 1,300 compatriots, with 73,000 more having encountered the virus.

Fever

A casual glance on our neighbourhoods, social media and obituary pages backs this, suggesting the official tally might be conservative due to unreported cases.

The occasional infection of a public figure reminding us that we are not out of the woods yet.

Medics and scientists continue burning the midnight oil to understand Covid19 better and its symptoms, or lack of them witnessed in different people.

Though clear patterns of symptoms in fever, fatigue, breathing difficulty and loss of taste and smell were identified early, the last few months have seen some patients report a wide range of unexplained signs like longer infection periods and mental challenges such as anxiety, memory problems even depression.

Even more intriguing has been the asymptomatic cases and cases of certain people in a family contracting the illness while others remain healthy.

Add that to the fact that, Africa appears to suffer disproportionately lower rates of infection and mortality, its dilapidated health systems notwithstanding.

It is going to take time before someone can explain this incongruent picture.

Global bullies

What is clear in the interim is that our world has dramatically changed, perhaps for the better.

Traditionally, countries have spent colossal amounts of money building armies to deter global bullies.

It now it appears potential threats to humanity must be re-assessed and budgets adjusted.

It might be an unknown virus and not a nuclear bomb that will bring the world to its knees.

The most secure nations are likely to be those with highly diversified risk registers and commensurate investment to build capacity to confront such.

The early travel bans and overflowing hospitals in the developed world was another rebuke to developing nations to prioritise health.

The fact that some regions have been affected more than others is another sobering lesson.

With the 21 st century having experienced its fair share of protectionist tendencies and inward-looking policies, the pandemic has highlighted the need for concerted effort to ensure no part of the globe is left behind in modernising its health systems. Who knows, a future pandemic, may see the less affected regions serving as refuge centres and provide manufacturing hubs for drugs.

Perhaps it is time to build longer bridges and not towering walls.

The pandemic has shone the spotlight on the place and role of global information systems and co-operation among nations.

The future will likely be more secure if pandemics and other threats are reported early and containment measures quickly activated.

Covid-9 has painfully reminded us of the dividend of tackling a problem early and at source, before it grows wings.

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