About four months ago when the world heard of the emergence of SARS Cov-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, it was initially regarded as just another seasonal illness pervading China. After all, SARS, MERS, HINI 2009 emerged and then became history before it found its way to most countries.
This time around, COVID-19 would not be confined in a particular region for a few days, but would storm and spread like wildfire globally and linger for many months.
The Eye-Opener in Kenya
The month of March was the eye-opener in Kenya. COVID-19 would become the most trending public health threat in Kenya’s history.
Although the COVID-19 disaster response in Kenya was initially characterized by several drawbacks to act proactively, it did not take long for the government to realize that the magnitude of the threat was more serious than anticipated and sprang into action with stringent preventive and control measures.
A Call to Action
Measures taken to protect the public by breaking the chain of transmission comprised of closing all schools, enforcing social distancing, banning public gathering, recommending regular handwashing and face-masks, enforcing quarantine and isolation, implementing stay-at-home orders, enforcing curfew and lockdown.
Health Care Workers
The health and safety of public health and medical professionals during, and after this crisis is paramount. They need to be appreciated, provided with the necessary resources and supported in terms of their mental well-being in order to enhance their sacrifice of taking care of the rest of the public. If their health is compromised, their role will be compromised as well which would suppress the entire health care system.
As a result of any disaster, the public is prone to mental and behavioural problems like depression, anxiety, post traumatic distress, frustration, among others. In order to relieve such problems, there is need to integrate mental health care which includes psychological first-aid, within the framework of public health interventions.
Next Step forward
Due to the severe economic and social impact being experienced amid this disaster, everyone has been curious as to when this disaster will end and when things will go back to normal. No one knows exactly when, but projection from experts indicate that the disaster would take many months. A new normal will be imminent just like the social changes witnessed after the emergence of HIV/AIDS. COVID-19 will most likely cause lasting social changes and recalibration.
Businesses and institutions will have to rethink of emergency preparedness and strategies for continuity of operations during disasters, e.g. fair labour practices, flexible working schedules, staying home while sick, working from home, etc.
Most importantly, the government will need to restructure and develop a comprehensive disaster emergency preparedness planning, not just for COVID-19, but one that includes endemic emergencies, like drought, floods, disease outbreaks, and terrorism. Other annexes would include chemical and biological terrorism threats.
With effective emergency preparedness and planning, we should never be caught off-guard by other disasters as response will be effectively managed and controlled.
Compiled by Thuku Njenga, MPH, MHA.