Aug 20, 2020
Now the Government cannot protect you against Covid-19

If you have been thinking that the Government can protect you against the coronavirus, you are grossly mistaken. Why is that? You might ask. Is it not the case that the Government has required everybody to wear masks whenever they are out in public? Whereas that is true, doctors have pointed out that the duty of protecting you from getting the Covid 19 no longer belongs to the Government.

By ensuring that those returning from travel outside the country before suspension of international passenger flights were all be quarantined, the Government was seeking to stop infections brought into Kenya by those coming from other countries. All those people have by now gone through quarantine and gone home while some have unfortunately succumbed to the disease.

The virus is now spreading among us and those who are spreading it are people like you and me. When you ignore physical distancing requirements and leave home without properly wearing a mask, you are exposing yourself and the people you love to infection. According to experts, physical distancing means keeping people apart to minimise the chances of those free of the virus from getting infected and those infected from infecting others.

A campaign recently launched by veteran Kenyan doctors, known as Break the Chain is seeking to provide the scientific reasons behind why recommendations by the Government and others such as the WHO are intended at giving us the power to fight the virus. The organisation behind Break the Chain, which is known as Doctors for Healthy Living (DHL), has provided doctors who have extensive experience, with a platform to be on hand to answer questions about why these measures are being prescribed and the science behind them.

“We want to play our part by encouraging Kenyans to ‘Ask the Doctor’ through a range of interactive traditional and social media in order for them to understand that there is scientific reason behind these government protocols and why they must play their part in rolling back Covid-19,” said Dr Robert Mathenge, a co-founder and Chair of DHL.

One of these much-emphasised measures is physical distancing. It has been estimated that the very tiny droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, known as aerosols, are projected for up to six feet (about 1.5 meters). Once they get in the air, they can linger in closed spaces for up to three hours.

Face masks prevent the infectious droplets from going out of the carrier’s face. They also play a part in reducing the chances of a masked person inhaling the virus through the mouth and nose. Properly wearing a mask is vitally important for this reason. When you walk around with your mask not fully covering your mouth and nose, this is the danger to which you are exposing yourself.

Doctors who study epidemic trends say that the rate of spread of a pandemic depends on four things. The first is the duration of time a person remains infectious; the second is the number of opportunities to spread the disease when they are infectious, while the third is the probability that the opportunity results in infection. The fourth factor is how susceptible one is to infection. From what we have seen around the world, with non-other than British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson being hospitalised with Covid 19, anybody can get infected.

Experts who study epidemics point out that two out of the four factors namely, reducing the opportunity to spread infection and minimising chances of infection where opportunities to get infected exist, are within everybody’s control. Staying at home for example greatly reduces the chances of getting infected. Since it is not possible for all of us to stay at home, distancing, handwashing with soap often and wearing a mask properly are so important. They protect you and people you love in your household, including children from getting infected.

By taking these measures seriously, you will be helping to reduce infections and saving lives. It will mean reduced pressure on the health care system, leaving health workers to focus on helping those who are critically ill.

Whereas the Government can encourage or even enforce its recommended preventive measures, it cannot do this for all of us. The Government can therefore no longer protect you from infection by the coronavirus. Only you can protect yourself.

Dr Joseph Aluoch is an respiratory diseases specialist and convener, Break the Chain campaign against Covid 19 – aluochj@gmail.com. Anthony Mugo is the Programme Manager, Doctors for Healthy Living amugo@apn.co.ke.