Why Kenya couldn’t lock her airspace before a single case Covid-19 was reported in the country

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By Pauline Njoroge

Many things have been said about coronavirus in Kenya. What the Government shouldn’t have done, what they should do now to kick Covid-19 pandemic out of Kenya, I mean almost everyone has an opinion on the novel coronavirus. Pauline Njoroge has this to say:

“At the moment, only a couple of islands where people hardly visit are Covid-19 free. The rest of the world is affected, with over 200 countries and territories having reported positive cases. In most situations, the more flights a country handles, the more affected.

I have seen some argue that we could have avoided the virus, if we had locked our airspace before a single case was reported in the country. Kenya, a regional air transport hub would be the only country on earth that would not be having cases of the disease. Well, apart from those islands, most of which have a population of less than 20,000 people.

But think about it. Having suspended international travel, just like we have now, we would still be suffering a major economic crisis as we would not be exporting our horticultural products etc, people would not be traveling for business, we would not be receiving tourists, importers and traders would be stranded just as they are now. Businesses that deal with imported commodities, those that deal with exports, hotel and tourism sector etc would still have had to downsize or close down for a while, therefore some people would still have lost jobs.

Several months down the line, the rest of the world would have managed to deal with the virus and different populations would have developed herd immunity. The bodies of most human beings would have developed defense mechanisms to deal with the virus. So, as much as the disease would not have disappeared entirely from the environment, people would have learnt to deal with it.

Subsequently, international travel would have resumed and people’s lives would have gone back to normal….or the new normal. Kenya would have opened its airspace as well.

In such a scenario as stated above, this is my hypothesis of what would happen afterwards.

Kenyans would resume international travel and while out there, a few would interact with people who are asymptomatic or whose bodies have developed mechanism to deal with the virus. Couple of days later, those Kenyans would fly back into the country and go about their lives, not realizing they have contracted the virus. We would also receive visitors who are asymptomatic.

Before we realize it, the country would start reporting cases of Covid-19 and because unlike now when the alert levels are high and those arriving have been taken to quarantine, the systems would have eased up a bit, and those flying in would drive from the airport to their intended destinations, where they would interact with many people. And the virus would rapidly spread.

The sad part would be that while in other countries most people would have developed hard immunity, in Kenya the story would be different.

And so it would turn out that as the rest of the world is recovering from the pandemic and working to rebuild their economies, Kenya would be starting the process of closing schools, curfew, containment…. you know how it goes.

Meanwhile as the rest of the world is trying to figure out which strain of covid-19 we are dealing with, they would first suspend flights to and from Kenya. Which would mean export and import businesses would once more be halted, people who travel for business would once again sit here and wait, and so on and so forth.

Meanwhile the support we are receiving from other countries and our development partners at the moment would not be the less for obvious reasons.

The long and short of my very long story is, Covid-19 is a global pandemic and would have had to deal with it now or later. In my opinion, I prefer now when the attention of the whole world is focused on containing the virus.

And this ladies and gentlemen is a summary of Pauline Njoroge’s Sunday morning thoughts.”

(Pauline is a Communication specialist at NEPAD, and masters student at the University of Nairobi. All credit and rights to her. The article was first published on her Facebook page).

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