How confusion, fear engulfed Kenya as virus struck - Beaking Kenya News

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Friday, 25 December 2020

How confusion, fear engulfed Kenya as virus struck

 

The first case of novel coronavirus was reported in China, back in December 2019, in Wuhan City, Hubei province.

Spreading like a wild-fire, the virus reached Europe and the US through travellers returning from hotspots in Asia.

The Kenyan government, fully aware of the disease said that it has put in place enough mechanisms to protect its citizens from the deadly virus.

The deadly virus, which wreaked havoc on the population as well as the economy and impacted the social lives of communities across the globe caused panic in Africa.

The virus landed in Africa on February 14, 2020; the first case being reported in Egypt.

Kenya confirmed its first case of the disease on March 13, 2020, causing fear across the country.

The case was reported from a 27-year-old Kenyan woman who had travelled from the US via London.

It is not clear where this woman has been from March 5 to March 13

Later on, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a raft of measures to mitigate the further spread of the virus, including restrictions on travel from any countries with any case of the virus.

He also gave an order that saw all the schools and learning institutions in the country closed by March 20.

"All schools and higher learning institutions be closed by Friday, March 20, 2020. Government and business people start working from home; except essential services,” Uhuru announced.

Kenyans received the news in shock, the majority rushing into the supermarkets to stock up in fear of a possible lockdown.

Commodities such as sanitizer, masks as well as toilet papers were cleared from shelves even after prices tripled.

Naivas Supermarket along Kenyatta Avenue depleted its stock of sanitiser the next morning. Items such as tissue papers, maize flour, milk, and sugar were other household goods bought in bulk.

Shoppers at Shoprite Westgate Mall.
Shoppers at Shoprite Westgate Mall.
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

The retail outlets had to put in place limited purchase policies for some items such as hand sanitiser and antiseptics to ensure no customer is deprived of disinfectants.

For instance, an individual had to purchase only two sanitiser items at a go at Carrefour Supermarket in Sarit Centre, Westlands.

Kenyans learned about the idea of stocking toilet papers from Western countries, after a video in an Australian supermarket surfaced showing three women pulling each other’s hair and screaming over a large pack of toilet rolls. 

This was also perpetrated by social media through videos and pictures of people shopping in supermarkets.

Earlier, the majority of Africans believed in unconfirmed misconception about the virus, some saying that the virus does not survive in the body of an African man.

Some of the people who believed that drinking alcohol, such as beer, liquor, and wine prevent the spread of coronavirus had to stock it, a belief that was dismissed by the World Health Organisation.

The fear of a possible lockdown also forced Kenyans to stock different items, clearing essential items from the shelves.

In March, a global think tank GeoPoll released its findings regarding Kenyans preparedness and the response to the virus.

The research was conducted between March 10 and 13, focusing on knowledge and perceptions towards the virus in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.

It revealed that 94 per cent were aware of the pandemic, noting that there were high levels of uncertainty in Kenya with 27 per cent stating that they were not sure and 12 per cent believing there had been confirmed cases.

“Despite relatively low numbers of cases in each country, concern over coronavirus is high. We found that 71 per cent in Kenya, 69 per cent in Nigeria, and 72 per cent in South Africa rated their level of concern as ‘very high,'” the report said.

About 25 per cent reported many items being out of stock while 40 per cent said some items have run out of stock since the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite the fear and misconceptions among Kenyans about the virus, its spread was fast enough that all the 47 counties had reported cases of the virus by August.

The president announced a raft of measures in March to curb the further spread of the virus, which included the closure of all the learning institutions in the country.

Other measures included directing government and businesses people to start working from home; except essential services, cashless transactions over cash, avoiding congressional meetings such as weddings, malls, night clubs, churches, limitation of visits to hospitals.

By April, the number of positive cases as well as the number of deaths increased, despite the measures introduced.

Uhuru said Cessation of movement was to start in Nairobi today (Monday) at 7pm.

The president declared the cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, Kilifi, Kwale, and Mombasa counties for 21 days.

The four counties were the hotspot for the transmission of the virus.

Uhuru said that majority of people who had contracted the disease were from Nairobi, Kilifi, Kwale, and Mombasa counties.

The virus is still spreading daily across the world and healthcare workers who are at the front row in fighting the virus burning the midnight oil to save lives.

As of December 11, 2020, Kenya had more than 90,000 positive cases of the virus out of about 960,000 cumulative tests.

The virus has so far claimed more than 1,560 lives.

Kenyans and the entire world have grasped to a glimmer of hope and crossed their fingers that the development of Covid-19 vaccines and further progress about it succeeds.

WHO had said in April that there were 62 different coronavirus vaccine candidates that had been developed across the world.

Some have so far reported the progress of the vaccines, with Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine being rolled out in the UK for use.

Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old woman became the first person in the world to be given the Covid jab in the UK.

According to the Ministry of Health, Kenya is among the countries that are in the race to acquire the vaccine.

Recently, Health CAS Rashid Aman said that there are 40 patients undergoing the AstraZeneca first phase trial in the country, and more patients are expected to participate in the trial.

AstraZeneca vaccine is among the three vaccines that are in the race to prove its efficacy to the virus, which Kenya is taking part in.

“We are looking at the possibility of getting any of these vaccines once they become available and tested. The interim results do indicate the levels of safety and effectiveness of these.”

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