Covid-19 is here to stay, Kenya must be prepared

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Ideas & Debate

Covid-19 is here to stay, Kenya must be prepared


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Healthcare staff prepares to administer a Covid-19 vaccine. FILE PHOTO | AFP

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Summary

  • This was early week data, after Kenya received more than a million doses, but had vaccinated less than ten thousand, while announcing over 600 places across the country to get that jab.
  • By this time, Rwanda had jabbed 257,000, Ghana had poked more than 350,000 and Senegal had done 131,000.

Here’s the good news. Covid-19 vaccination is here. Here’s the bad news. Based on current procurement estimates, only 30 percent of Kenyans will have been vaccinated by 2023. In perspective, the two-shot Oxford/Astra-Zeneca we are acquiring expires in six months (as, mostly, do the others), which is why logistics matter. But here’s the global perspective.

In the US (100-plus million vaccinations already for a 330 million population), President Joe Biden promises Americans a likely “business as usual, family-gathered” Fourth of July (Independence Day). Israel has already vaccinated half of its population. The Seychelles has done a quarter-plus of its own.

Collectively, the G7 has vaccinated more than six per of its 775 million. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – 3.3 billion people) are at 0.34 per cent. Our seven billion world is at just over one per cent. These are fully vaccinated (single or double dose) numbers. Africa is at 0.01 per cent based on known supplies, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) tells us. Anyone hoping to travel soon?

This was early week data, after Kenya received more than a million doses, but had vaccinated less than ten thousand, while announcing over 600 places across the country to get that jab. By this time, Rwanda had jabbed 257,000, Ghana had poked more than 350,000 and Senegal had done 131,000.

Kenya’s attempt to “carefully” climb this veritable league table (quality, not quantity, we are officiously told) “misunderestimates” (as former US President George Bush might have put it) four terribly important points. Let’s dig a little deeper in this limited space.

First, as far as one can tell, while Covid-19 (the disease) can be vaccinated against, this coronavirus (the SARS-COV-2 virus) is here to stay. Before we run into wild panic, let’s recall that the flu, and common cold, are also coronavirus-inspired. Prepare, therefore, for Covid-19 seasons, as we do with the flu. The scientists properly focused on the threat; the science says that, like the flu, it’s not going away.

There is a second point. Covid-19 is real (or as I described in sheng a while back, “Corona si vako”)). The countries that are not rushing to vaccinate pre-emptively stopped it in its tracks. More numbers here might help. Australia: 25 million people. 14 million tests. 29,000 positives. 900 or so deaths. Vaccination 185,000. New Zealand: 5 million people.

Almost 2 million tests, 2.500 positives and less than 100 fatalities. Vaccination 18,000. China, you say? 1.5 billion people, 160 million tests, 90,000 positives, less than 5,000 dead. Vaccination 65 million (remember, more than a billion out there).

Let’s stop and think here. America has tested 115 percent of its people. The Brits have tested 155 percent of theirs. The G7 average on testing is more than 80 percent. And already vaccinated more than six percent. The BRICS testing numbers are around three percent, which is close to Black Africa’s.

Between Australia and New Zealand, we’re talking 40 to 60 percent. The UAE (Dubai etc) has tested 354 percent, and vaccinated a fifth of its people. To clarify, we have tested 2.5 percent of Kenyans.

Strategy 101 says there were two strands to this war on Corona. The first was prevention and mitigation (the “stopisha” move); the second was treatment (call this “rembesha”). Strategy 102 asks, what next?.

Accepting that there many moving parts to this pandemic, our strategy is correctly scientific but hopelessly un-socio-economic. It lazily suggests lives supercede livelihoods while ignoring living (social mobility/interaction, mental health). Lazier still is to offer economic recovery ideation driven by mega-project tropes that are the high-cost, high-debt legacy hallmark of this Jubilee administration.

Strand one of this moment must re-imagine our economy. Officialdom prefers we shut up, without explaining our suspicions on Covid-19 (hey, will the 70 percent vaccination not available before 2023 be privatized and merchandised?). “Bigly”, how has Covid changed our economic future, beyond half a trillion in announced economic loss and free trade agreements left, right and centre? Within our messy debt service and currency stability framework, is a, probably necessary, shilling devaluation looming?

Here’s more. Is there official understanding of the economy, and impact of extended curfews on the real “kadogo” economy, not middle-class “bubble” and senior class “casino”? Watch fuel prices and power bills. As we misunderstand our digital (i.e. I don’t need to go to a government office) opportunity.

So, strand two must re-imagine government. It cannot be the one apparently lying to the IMF and then reportedly sourcing billions in the name of Covid support as the Business Daily has captured. It cannot be a government in which the IMF’s own fiscal monitoring database suggests we’ve blown up to Sh300 billion on “Covid issues”. It’s not our voters who chose a procurement system that permits prayers and prophesies to create sundry millionaires from nothing. Oh, sorry, those 21 days are long gone.

I digress. Let’s live with Covid, not run. At the same time, let’s re-imagine, if government cannot. Let’s question how we created tenderpreneurs as our political Faustian bargain. We’ll get a jab in two years.

Meanwhile, let’s think about what Covid-19, not BBI, asks of us. We call it thinking global, acting local.

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