The government through the ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs has embarked on a countrywide public information exercise on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the flagging off ceremony at Uhuru na Kazi Building in Mombasa Friday, Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata said the government is currently tasked with tackling fear among Kenyans for the mass testing targeting the epicenters of the disease outbreak.
“People have the fear that if found positive for Covid-19, they will be forced to quarantine and forced to foot the bills which is not the case,” said Elungata, adding that the government only wants to know how many might have contracted the disease in order to put in place best measures to avoid further spread.
The Regional Commissioner said the people have developed this paranoia since they are afraid of being stigmatized and separated from their families or being labeled outcasts or bad people.
He attributed the fear to the bad start on the way covid-19 was handled saying now the ministry of ICT will clear the fear and instill confidence in people to agree to be tested, during the ongoing mass testing exercises in vulnerable populations.
“Due to a bad start in the war against Covid-19 during initial stages, the ministry of Information will be able to correct the perception in people that being positive is not a death sentence or reason to be punished instead the mass testing is aimed at helping the people in efforts to contain the spread of the virus.”
He reiterated the public sensitization by the government through the Ministry of Information will instill confidence in people and reduce the fear for testing and encourage them come out in large numbers to be tested.
Elungata said people need to exercise laid down precaution measures against contracting and spread of the virus including wearing of masks, washing hands maintaining social distancing and avoiding crowds and most importantly staying home if they have no business going outside and public places.
“We appeal for people to be tested since the government has a provision to self-isolate as opposed to forced isolation and quarantine, adding that there will be no arrests and forced quarantine during mass testing exercises.”
He commended the Mombasa county government for promising to offset all bills for Covid-19 patients during the 14 days isolation, saying the pandemic is of global and national scale affecting everyone, thus the need for concerted efforts.
He said cessation of movement in and out of Mombasa and other areas in the coast region as well as night curfew to avoid the spread of the virus would be maintained until the curve is flattened.
Elungata asserted the government is busy passing information on avoiding contracting the virus as well as safety measures for those found positive to prevent further spread.
Other measures in the fight against the pandemic include provision of 90,000 masks to affected areas in the coast including Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties.
The youth have also been given an opportunity to contribute in the war against Covid-19 through paid jobs in the National hygiene program dubbed KAZI MTAANI.
The Regional Commissioner said the government is undertaking a monitoring exercise to ascertain if the measures being implemented are working and recommend for further areas of concern.
“Areas of Kibokoni, bondeni Miritini and the port are of keen concern since Covid-19 cases have been increasing, thus the need for speedy intervention to avoid spread,” said the Regional Commissioner.
He said out of the mass testing targeting KPA which has over 7000 employees, 14 people have so far tested positive for the disease out of 1200 tested by Thursday.
He confirmed that five people died out of 106 positive cases in the coast region as shared at the national Covid-19 Committee.
He sent a strong warning to those sneaking through illegal rotes in and out of the containment that they will be arrested and charged, since they are risking their lives and those of other people they come into contact with since they do not know their statuses.
Elungata said the government will not take chances with those breaking the cessation directives, while urging those with emergencies like medical, burials among others to come out and explain and the government will certainly understand.
By Joseph Kamolo