I hope you are keeping safe and that you have yet another chance to read my blog post. I am penning down my thoughts on a Saturday afternoon, after the press briefing through the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Hon. Mutahi Kagwe. I listened to him, I watched his body language and expression, and I could tell it is no longer business as usual.
Kenya has now recorded 142 COVID-19 positive cases and four fatalities as of 5th April, 2020. The number is rising fast! It is daunting; it’s scary and terrifying! By 10th of March, Kenya had no incidents to report, and we felt quite safe. Everything else sounded like a farfetched story. But now, reality has hit home, hard and fast, and the Government of Kenya is not taking any chances. None at all. CS Kagwe did not mince his words. It is either you listened or listened.
“If you are waiting to hear of someone who is positive or dead as a result of COVID-19, when you hear of death, it could be your own death, and of course you won’t hear about it,” remarked CS Kagwe.
If this statement doesn’t make any sense to you now, nothing else will!
COVID-19 has continued to affect the world in an unprecedented way. We are in a war fighting an unseen enemy. We now have 1,192,028 positive cases with over 65,000 deaths globally. Countries across the world are grappling with how to deal with this pandemic while slowing down new infections in order to flatten the curve.
How fast life changes. Seven months ago, we packed our belongings, ready for a one-year sojourn in search for higher education in the United Kingdom. A rare opportunity that we were all excited about. Today, we are here watching the daily happenings in astonishment. Anxiety, tension and uncertainty has engulfed our lives. There is nothing as scary as finding yourself in a foreign country at such a time.
So now I am in Cardiff, a city within the UK. The UK is in Europe. In short, I am at the epicentre of this virus.
Just like many of you who have found yourselves away from home amid all this, my first reaction was to start planning my return home. We are worried and shaken. Chevening Secretariat has already given the go-ahead to anyone who wants to go home. We are free to pack our belongings and leave the UK. But, at what expense? How do we get ourselves home?
Two weeks ago, the Government of Kenya announced additional measures.
1) All international flights were declared suspended starting Wednesday March 25th except cargo flights, whose crew will be quarantined upon arrival. Those who will enter the country as from Wednesday 25th will have to undergo *mandatory* quarantine in government-designated facilities or in hotels of their choice at their own expense.
2) Kenyans and foreigners not observing self-quarantine will be forcibly quarantined for 28 days and after that, arrested and charged.
I understand that going back home at this point is not a decision that is being taken lightly from all quarters. In a conversation with my family and friends, many of them are convinced that my return at this juncture will be reckless of me and I will be risking everyone who will be in contact with me upon my arrival. I understand your fears. I do. But, in all honesty, I kind of feel a little discriminated upon. It’s frightening to see a calamity manifest itself when you are alone in a foreign country, 7,000 KM plus away or about 10 hours of flight duration. Well, I have housemates with me, so I am not badly off, but I would have really wanted to be home, close to my family at this point.
“We have consulted far and wide. Your coming back home at this time will put us all in a risky situation. Stay where you are, we will be checking on you. If you have food, a place to sleep and you have internet, just stay there. Should you come home, we will inform the Government to quarantine you. We are sure you do not want that, neither do we want that. We know you too well, you cannot self-isolate. So please, for humanity sake, stay there,” posted one of my family members who has now designated himself to be the family spokesperson as far as my quest to go back home is concerned.
I hid to your counsel. I am here to stay. As a student, I have classes to attend, albeit virtually. I have dissertation to finalize, and yes, now I have a new timetable with group discussions taking place virtually. However, I must admit, it is a struggle staying focused when I have to work from my room with my bed constantly beckoning me. It is hard, SO hard. I miss going to the library and hugging my friends. I miss our coffee moments at Greggs and chatting after classes. I miss going to the malls. I wonder if there are new pairs of shoes in the market.
Now I find myself always worried about my family members. I am worried about what the future looks like. I bet we all are. We must do everything to stay alive. We all must take personal responsibility. We must adhere to the personal hygiene directives as required. Maintaining social distancing at home, in public transport and in shopping malls. We must observe self-quarantine rules and regulations, we must check on our family members, friends and even that annoying neighbour, spread some love and be kind to each other.
Let us applaud our unseen heroes, especially those working on the frontlines in the face of this pandemic. If we all do our bit, collectively we can stop the spread of the virus and subsequently #FlattenTheCurve then #WeWillSurvive and #WeWillGetBy.
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