Kenya: All Should Be Encouraged to Test for Coronavirus

20 November 2020

Now that I have gone public about my Covid status, a few friends have opened up about relatives or acquaintances who have either survived or succumbed to Covid-19.

I've also met sceptics who doubt the existence of Covid-19. You'd think that's an issue long resolved, what with the pandemic sweeping across Europe and the US.

One of my friends lost a brother and the other, a close friend who was handling a legal matter for him days ago. In both cases, the victims were rushed to hospitals that lacked the requisite equipment, mostly oxygen.

It's important to note that should one suspect Covid to be the problem, the first action should be which hospital to take them to.

Despite assurances from the Health ministry that there are enough beds for these patients, the opposite is the truth.

A random call to hospitals seeking to have a Covid-19 patient admitted is met with the stock reply: "We do not have enough beds."

Aga Khan was categorical that the beds are full and any extra Covid-19 patients were mostly referred to Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral Hospital. The hospital is said to have more space and expertise to handle Covid-19.

Nairobi Hospital has a lot of bureaucracy, with calls dropping while Nairobi South requires almost all the patient's information given on phone. But the latter indicated they have bed space.

I've also had friends who suspect they might have had Covid-19 early in the year without knowing what it was. I was sceptical.

Suffice it to say, I was mainly thinking about how it presented in my case. But talking to my doctor later, I was shocked to learn that it is true. Most of those in the 16 to 35 age bracket stand a good chance of facing the pandemic once they test positive and are asymptomatic.

She gave an example of a colleague who was in her 20s and had tested positive. She seemed least bothered and went about her duties till she tested negative. It increasingly seems that Covid-19 discriminates on grounds of age and pre-existing conditions.

So what are the lessons to be learnt as we wind up the series? That age does give you an advantage, but not necessarily immunity. That masks do save lives, especially where the elderly and other vulnerable groups are concerned. That one should not let down their guard, even where your intimate friends are concerned. Suspect everyone. And that you should observe social distancing religiously; your life depends on it.

Without sounding alarmist, there's a high probability that by the time the vaccine reaches our shores, half the country will have been infected but not tested. So just like in HIV cases, knowing your Covid-19 status should be encouraged and testing should be made cheaper and more accessible.

Mr Mbuthia, a former 'Nation' quality editor, is currently a consulting editor.

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