When the first case of Covid-19 was reported in March last year, it cast a dark shadow in Kenya and what followed was nine months of fear, frustrations, devastation and stigmatization of unimaginable proportions.
One year later all seems to be forgotten and life is slowly falling back to normal especially in Bungoma County making many wonder whether the pandemic has really come to an end.
Social distancing is no longer observed, people interact freely in social gatherings, shaking hands and even hugging, public vehicles no longer carry the required number of passengers as per the Covid-19 protocols and no sanitizing takes place at boarding points.
Many have refrained from wearing masks which is mandatory and the few who use them don’t wear them properly, rather, they put them on their chins for a quick shove up the nose once they spot a police officer to avoid being arrested not for fear of contracting the disease.
Lockdown was removed and curfew moved from 7 to 10 pm but bars and entertainment joints still operate beyond the stipulated time.
Talking to KNA, Bungoma County Director of medical services Dr. Johnstone Akatu pointed out that Covid-19 is still here and cautioned residents to continue taking precautions. He said Bungoma County referral hospital in February alone admitted 651 patients who tested positive. “Some 635 were treated and discharged while 16 died,” said Dr Akatu.
The director said that the county government also put 400 people who tested positive on home based care and they were making good progress.
However it was noted that when schools were re-opened, teachers were strict and learners would don masks everywhere but as months have passed, a spot check in a number of schools revealed that students have thrown caution to the wind. Learning is progressing normally and in most primary schools, up to three pupils share one desk and with no masks.
Covid-19 sanitizing booths in public places are no longer functioning and washing of hands in most public places has stopped, washing stations removed and talking about Covid 19 no longer an in thing.
Only churches seem to be adhering to the protocol regulations with worshippers still required to wear masks during services but take them off very fast as soon as they get out.
Supermarkets are also strict and require clients to have masks and their temperatures checked before walking in. They have now become good points for those who sell masks as many people only remember once there that they have not come with the vital piece of cloth. The masks now retail at Sh 10 each so it is no big deal to their pockets.
However, he noted that testing at the county level stopped during the period that nurses went on strike as there were no medics to pick the specimen. He lashed at politicians who have compelled people to ignore Covid restrictions especially social distancing during rallies that are being held in different parts of the county.
He acknowledged that police officers have been reinforcing wearing of masks and appealed to wananchi to put on masks for their own safety not for fear of arrest.
“Covid-19 is a serious disease, it is not something you admire to suffer, the fever, cough, chest pains and discomfort is very stressful so I appeal to residents to take precautions to avoid catching the deadly virus,” he pleaded.
by Lydia Wanaswa/ Roseland Lumwamu