The state of COVID19 in Kenya deserves top priority in the #StateoftheNation address by the President of Kenya today. Tools of science such as simulation models and compelling graphics must be used to communicate effectively to the public across the board in order to meaningfully support behaviour change agency. Discipline and adequate containment measures are required to avoid hitting 70000 cases on November 15th or 78000 – 95000 cases come December 2020. It must be noted that the active cases in Kenya have stayed at about 30% of the total, with a case fatality rate of 1.8%. We cannot afford to manage 20000 – 30000 active COVID19 cases and counting come December or a total of 1400 – 1700 COVID19 deaths by then. The education sector is suffering, families and frontline workers the same, among others.Where are we headed with this resurgent COVID-19 wave, a wily warrior whose art of war has been that of a strategic retreat and an overwhelming ambush whenever we relax measures, whenever public rallies resume with impunity and citizens lower their guard with a damaging “normality bias”? The effects of COVID19 will be felt for long afterwards. Building adaptive capacity is not just a good idea, but the minimum requirement for staying ahead of the curve in the post-COVID era.
TESTING REMAINS CRITICAL
Lessons from Europe on how France, Spain, the UK, and Germany are adapting to the resurgent COVID wave show that the effectiveness of #testing is key to understanding the COVID curve; otherwise, the government will keep calibrating policies and strategies based on limited data and a false impression of a “flattening curve”, as it happened in September after Kenya reduced her testing rate by 50% between August 16 and October. The normalised mean testing rate of Kenya was only 58 tests/million people/day by November 11th, far below Rwanda’s 183, South Africa’s 337, Morocco’s 377, and much further below Israel, the USA and leading European countries, which have consistently scored in the range of 700 – 2000 tests/million people/day. Countries such as France and Spain, after substantially increasing their testing rate, have risen up the rank. For example, #France has recently displaced #Russia from the fourth position globally. Reducing the testing rate is, therefore, reducing the quality of the actionable intelligence Kenya needs for effective governance of the pandemic.
TIERS OF RISK ZONES
By November 10, Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kiambu were leading in the share of COVID-19 cases in Kenya. Assuming the data is fairly representative from the samples tested, these three counties deserve being in the red tier zone of caution and care. They are followed by Nakuru and Kajiado in the second tier. In the third tier are Busia, Machakos, and Uasin Gishu. County-level COVID prevention and management strategy should benefit from such a scientific approach divorced from whims and political rhetoric.
POLITICAL GOODWILL AND IMPACT SPACE FOR LOCAL EXPERTS
Ultimately, local experts from Kenyan universities are up to the task of modelling scenarios to inform policy decisions. They only need the space of political goodwill to create an impact on the decision-making arena. As such, Prof. Magoha’s challenge to local scholars needs to be examined with caution. Political goodwill for good science remains a key enabler. If this had not been a key factor, the case of Kenyan experts shining abroad could not have found even a footnote in the books of impactful contribution to society. Through adequate goodwill and funding support, the many disjointed research efforts and findings can be integrated into transformative discourse and objective debate in favour of win-win outcomes and inclusive national development. This step will move us closer to fulfilling the desires of scholars such as Prof. Bethwell Ogot, which he voiced at a recent virtual forum held in his honour by the University of Nairobi.
Let’s tune in and hear how much out if this will find space in the Presidential State of the Nation Address. God Bless Kenya!
Nashon, a geospatial expert, lecturer and trained policy analyst applies dynamic models to complex adaptive systems. He is a youth mentor on career development and the founder of Impact Borderless Digital.