Covid-19: When the World takes a Mandatory Leave

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I might be speaking for myself here but when the virus was first reported, in China to be specific, I didn’t give much thought to it. “It’s quite far and plus China can handle this” IBrushed it off as am sure most people did. But as days turned into weeks and weeks into months the numbers kept rising and more countries became affected, and we all watched as the virus slowly turned into a global nightmare and right into our doorsteps.

After the Government and your organizations measures to protect you were effected, you attended (and maybe still do,) sensitization meetings on Zoom because you needed to learn. You are scared and desperate and any information you could get even if it means tattooing it on your skin you will do it. You go to the supermarket to buy a hand sanitizers and do some shopping but due to mass shopping panic that happened a while back, you can’t get some Items you would normally pass. They literally moved from being unwanted to essentials!!  After a Month or so, cases of Layoffs and Unpaid leaves grace your Television Screen, things got thick real first!   

Since the first case was reported, Kenya has put in place measures to prevent the spread such as encouraging social distancing and isolation for 14 days to visiting persons in the Country and as the confirmed cases rose, a curfew was introduced. The airspace in most countries were closed with only evacuations allowed for a limited time. The global space has shrunk all thanks to the virus.

We all know the extent of the effects to which the Virus has caused. Countries on lockdown, deaths and generally an awful way to end the first quarter of the year. Though a terrible disease, I want to look at it from another perspective. It has uncovered a lot of gaps, gaps which needless to say we must address. As a nation we must honestly evaluate the capabilities of our health systems and ask ourselves pertinent questions. What are the gaps we ought to address within our health care systems? Are we able to take care of the vulnerable groups?  As citizens are we going to stop maintaining the practice of hand washing with soap and water after the virus is long gone or contained?  Among others.

I may have a few ideas and so do you but I what I stand by, is this. We must maintain the hand washing practice at ALL cost. This virus has proven to us that it can be done and we need to continue with it. It should be done before boarding a public vehicle, entering a Government institution, offices, places of worship, school, Ferry you name it. This will not only help reduce the spread of this virus but also a load of other public health concerns such as Cholera and even TB.

Speaking of TB, there are tons of similarities between the symptoms of TB and COVID 19,  and maybe the few lesson we have learnt on TB could apply observing general hygiene practices like  covering your mouth when you cough and/or sneeze, and if you generally feel unwell visit the health facility near you .  Likewise we can protect ourselves from COVID-19 and TB by practicing safe distancing. If you can work from Home then do it, Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face in general as that is a point of entry for the Virus. Take care of your mental health it’s okay to be scared. We uncover new things about it daily, so do whatever you can do to remain sane. Exercise daily there is a ton of YouTube tutorials that can show you easy and not so easy work out exercises. Do the FIVE. 

With the partial lockdown of Nairobi, Mandera Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale Counties, TB patients who need to transverse between Counties such as Kwale and Mombasa will be affected. Greatly! This may contribute to an increase in defaulter case and relapse cases in the coming months if we do not put proper strategies in place such as drug refill for a longer time for those that are in continuation phase. This will also affect the nutrition aspect of the patients as Nutrition in TB is important. Contact tracing is affected hence the visible signs of the effects of the Virus will be visible in the coming months after the COVID-19 is managed. As for now, if we can continue to give the much needed attention to the Virus and also not neglect the other diseases that need our attention we will have a medical crisis of its own kind. 

After the world has recovered, we will need to seriously look into our health care systems. Can Universal Health Coverage fill in the gaps in our health care system? Can making NHIF a Social Insurance help in health financing? All this we need to put it in out to-do list of the year because it’s safe to say some for your new-year resolutions are not going to be met this year. I have not yet made peace with that. I believe things will not go back to normal because normal is what got us here in the first place and what we do right now will affect how we will operate in the remainder of the year. This pandemic is both a lesson and an experience and we have to live it.

Stay Safe. Be well. Stay Positive

By: Sammy Kihiu, TB program Assistant

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