The Kenya Human Rights Commission, however, notes that a new case of coronavirus was announced today, bringing the total number of cases detected in Kenya to four. The Kenya Human Rights Commission notes, further, that almost all the countries that have had to deal with a large number of coronavirus infections have a much better healthcare system than the one in Kenya. Notwithstanding their better-resourced healthcare systems, those countries are struggling and are currently unable to cope with the pressure that their systems have come under as a result of having to deal with mass infections.

Even before coronavirus, Kenya’s fragile healthcare system is struggling and would surely be put under much more strain if it had to deal with a sudden upsurge of new cases of infection. Prevention remains Kenya’s only reasonable response to the threat of coronavirus.

Elements of a prevention strategy have already been spelt out by the government and include the urge for people to stay home, and to exercise social distancing. The government, however, needs to address barriers that would make it difficult for people to exercise social distancing.  The first is the fact that many families live from hand to mouth and cannot go into self-quarantine or stay home for long periods as the government advises. It is important for the government to quickly mobilise relief food and other humanitarian assistance to such families.

Secondly, because public places in high-density neighbourhoods remain an important breeding ground for the virus, the government needs to organise mass constant disinfection and deep cleaning of the outdoors in those neighbourhoods. Deploying the military or the National Youth Service would unleash a resource that the government could use in this regard.

Thirdly, many of these neighbourhoods also lack running water. Until the situation is controlled the government should maintain constant and reliable supply water and soap and other detergents to these neighbourhoods.

Fourthly, mass transport is where all members of the population will meet. The government must, at its own expense, organise on a daily basis, constant disinfection and deep cleaning of all public service vehicles and to make this process accountable could consider issuing displayable stickers to vehicles that have been sanitised.

Fifth, the government should pay special attention to prisons and other places of detention. People held in such places of detention are at the mercy of public officials in terms of health and safety. Standards of hygiene in such places are often lower than those within the general public and inmates have little control over how to improve these. Infection in these areas would affect not only inmates but also those that work there and their families including members of the entire justice chain. The government must release all prisoners serving less than 6 months and prisons authorities need to prepare fast-track cases that would qualify for parole. People held in remand awaiting trial for misdemeanours should be released unconditionally and the safety of the rest should be reviewed constantly.

Sixth, the government needs to build and equip temporary quarantine structures in readiness of the possibility that these may be needed.

Seventh, the Nairobi County Government needs to commence a programme of daily sanitation of the city. Other big towns and urban areas should do likewise. The government should recruit and deploy special volunteers including trained and unemployed health workers, to beef up the pool of resources to respond to the challenges that might arise.